I just joined an online challenge called 21*5*800 hosted by Bindu Wiles. 21 days. 5 days of yoga per week. 800 words per day.

I am so excited about this challenge.

The group is actually on day 4 of the challenge and I just got started. I’m just going to start where the group is, then add a few extra days at the end, probably just picking up the prompts I dropped from the first few days.

I’ve already decided that I while I intend to write my 800 words every day, I probably won’t share all of it, although I may share a portion. I want to get into a daily writing, and yoga, practice. I want to be able to be honest in my writing, and I have learned that I have to be much too careful about what I publish in this format. That said, today’s topic is relevant: Fear.


Fear has become a big part of my life since my breast cancer diagnosis. Fear of death? Certainly. Fear of pain? Oh, yes. Fear of being a burden on my family? Absolutely. Fear of the effects of my cancer on my one year old daughter? Terrifying.

I have found that the yoga helps. I’ve learned to breathe through the movements: the tough stretches, holding a challenging pose. That practice transfers to the uncomfortable and painful procedures. A deep breath and long slow exhale as I endure the poking and prodding makes all the difference. The pain is still there, but it is a bit more manageable. Focusing on my breath takes my focus away from the pain.

Fear takes me out of the present and puts me into the future – a future that is unknowable, yet my imagination tries it’s best to find every worst case scenario. Pain forces me into right now – so does my yoga practice. When I’m in now, what might happen doesn’t matter. Every moment has an infinity of possible outcomes.

When I’m seized by anxiety or panic, the yogic breathing can settle me down. Cleansing breath: long, slow exhale opens up more space in the lungs for a deeper, fuller inhale. Raise the arms to expand the chest, then slowly lower them as I exhale. Before I know it, I’m focusing more on how my body feels and improving this critical function. The fear is still there, but it is a bit more manageable. Focusing on my breath takes my focus away from the fear.

That’s not to say that fear is unwarranted. I have an aggressive form of breast cancer that has spread to the lymph nodes, complicated by another rare form of cancer that has a pretty grim prognosis. This is not something I can ignore or wish away. I also cannot focus only on the present. I am submitting myself to these procedures and chemotherapy, sacrificing my comfort and well being in the present, because I fear what will happen if I don’t, and in hope of improving my well being in the future.

Fear and Hope.

What I need is balance.

That takes me back to yoga.


You can learn more about my cancer story here:

my cancer story | Judy Schwartz Haley


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