The Enlightening Mat: Illness the Other Kind of Snuggle

Falling Down, Beth Hemmila

When anything touches or enters your body
Never say it is not God, for He is 
Just trying to get close.

- Hafiz,  "Never Say It Is Not God," The Subject Tonight is Love

Many people begin a yoga practice because they seek healing for an illness. I've known people who use Bikram yoga to keep them healthy after surviving cancer or serious surgery. My own deeper interest in Bikram yoga was stirred when I wanted to deal with my hormone imbalances and gallbladder issues. 

Nevertheless, my perception that illness is a temporary hassle that just needs a quick fix -- like the car needing a new battery -- has started to feel questionable. Then I read this quote from one of my favorite poems by Hafiz, and sickness has a whole new meaning for me. 

What if disease was God just trying to get closer to you? Would you treat her like an unwelcome guest, gently nudging her out the door and longing for her departure? What if you did the exact opposite and said, "Hello, illness what have you brought for me? What are you here to teach? How can I learn better in your presence? What can I do for you? How can I serve you best? What do you need from me?"

This is an incredibly radical thought for me because I like everything to be balanced and comfortable. To actually imagine welcoming in something uncomfortable and embracing it with open arms is loosening the screws in my whole wonderfully controlled state of affairs.  

Maybe it sounds like a silly idea, but I've been trying it, and one of the places that helps me get closer to what my body is trying to say is the Bikram yoga studio. A hot room with bodies lying next to me feels strangely comforting and frees me up to connect with whatever ailment has entered my body. It gives me a level of safety where I can feel that sense that my current pain is just God trying to get in a snuggle. The Bikram yoga studio is a space that promises time where I can work with my body and it's abstract emotions while leaving the ever-fixing mind behind. 

The Enlightening Mat is a blog series exploring moments of awareness that come to Beth Hemmila while practicing Bikram Yoga.  

To shop for yoga charms that celebrate the different poses click here to view this blog post Sterling Silver Charms for Bikram Yoga Postures


  1. it's interesting that you mentioned hormone and gallbladder issues and that you find help in bikram yoga. I have had hormone imbalances in the past as well as gallbladder attacks. I have focused on my diet and love yoga but, i cannot seem to handle bikram yoga. the hot room makes me sick, literally with flu like symptoms. I have tried it twice and fell ill afterwards both times. Maybe the process is ridding my body of something ... hmm something to think about.

  2. This is an interesting concept and one that strikes close to home. While having cancer was anything but fun, it was a turning point in my life. It was a wake up call. And I think in a strange way, it was something that had to happen for me to slow down. I was such a frantic mess of swirling energy, barely sleeping or eating and abusing myself by constantly being on the go. Getting cancer changed that. I had to stop. I had to heal. And I had to think about my body in a more sustainable way.

    Life is a mystery and it works in a mysterious fashion. I feel like the course I've taken in life has been directly connected, one event at a time. Sometimes I might be too close to see it all linked together, but with a little perspective and thought, it's easier to discern the pattern. For better or for worse... illness was very much apart of my pattern, but from it came so much more!

  3. Thanks Kristen and Andrew for checking out this post!

    Andrew, what a powerful story of change that took place in your life. I'm so happy it was the thing that had you slow down and want to see your body in a "sustainable" way.

    Kristen, I know what you mean about feeling sick during Bikram yoga. It lasted about a year for me, but after changing my diet and doing some cleanses I feel a lot better during class.


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