What Yoga Has Taught Me – Ashton Howard


Ashton’s Story

On the 13th January 2014, I was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia, my life as I knew it immediately came crashing to a halt. I was admitted to hospital the following day where I was put into isolation for over 6 weeks and began an intensive 10 month chemotherapy regime. I was forced to follow a strict neutropenic diet due to my weakened immune system, this was to stop me contracting infections which basically meant anything fresh and healthy was a no go. I struggled to stomache the hideous hospital food which I’m sure made me feel sicker than the chemo cocktails themselves.

Having always been a health conscious person I felt let down by my body and frustrated that this had happened to me, however as my consultant informed me there is no ‘rhyme or reason’ as to why I got this and I was just simply unlucky. As I always say I’m the luckiest, unlucky person alive!

I am slowly getting my life back on track and learning to repair and restore my mind and body back to good health. It’s my belief that my diagnosis was a wake up call to change and in some strange way I feel lucky to have been given this opportunity to transform my life.

What Yoga Has Taught Me

I have always enjoyed yoga even before my diagnosis I used to attend weekly classes however back then I just used to go through the motions, It never really resonated with me like it does now and I’ve realised that’s because I was never fully present. My mind would still be racing around at a million miles per hour however falling ill forced me to slow down and really appreciate many of the amazing healing benefits that yoga has to offer.

For the last couple of years my life has been hugely restricted and in the hands of my doctors, I have often felt trapped and a prisoner in my own body which has been extremely frustrating. Practising yoga enables me to feel like I can take a bit of that control back.

Yoga involves working with breathing (pranayama), stretching exercises, postures (asanas) and meditation. All of which enable me to develop a greater sense of well being by directing my attention inward and connecting with the breath, allowing me to become present. Working with my body, mind and soul together, has helped me embrace my situation, bringing balance and clarity back into my life.

My overactive mind has a tendency to seek out worst-case scenarios, and so I often find myself living in a place of fear. My yoga practice creates the space for me to release this and let go of my worries. It is proven that Yoga has a calming effect on the body and many poses have a stress relieving effect. For example a twist posture is great for wringing out anger, which is often held in our inner organs, especially the liver.

My treatment often makes me feel fatigued but I have found that practising yoga helps restore my energy levels, it has helped me regain my confidence in my bodies ability and focus on slowly building my strength back up both physically and mentally.

I have discovered there are many different styles of yoga which I enjoy including Hatha, Ashtanga and Kundalini. However I was recently introduced to restorative yin yoga which I would highly recommend to anyone going through treatment or for those days when you’re lacking energy. Yin yoga is a simple, quiet practice deeply healing and nourishing. It is a more meditative approach where you hold the pose for a longer length of time while focusing on the breath.

I’m definitely not as strong or supple as I used to be or would like to be, but I have to respect my body and show it compassion as it has been through an awful lot. At times I have felt let down and angry that this happened to me but yoga reminds me to appreciate each breath and every pose that I can do.

Yoga offers so many amazing benefits from relieving joint and muscle aches, clearing out toxins and boosting the immune system the list goes on. I enjoy each challenge it brings but most importantly yoga has given me the tools to reconnect and make peace with my body, and now every time I step upon my mat I feel truly grateful.






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