Shanna’s Story | Yogi Renewed
I’ve been practicing yoga for nearly 15 years.
More vinyasa than ashtanga, though the latter is my roots. I love yoga so much that I became an instructor in 2009. Around 2013, maybe even 2012, my practice began to feel stagnant. Stymied. I explored different approaches for inspiration, including a certification to teach cancer patients, primarily breast cancer. I found these women inspiring for their courage to fight the disease itself as they challenge their (temporary or permanent) physical limitations. I learned ways to help these determined women modify poses and move their practice forward. Extended meditation and centering help these students manage anxiety in the mind and body.
These warriors prepared me for 2014.
After finding a lump in my left breast and a series of tests, I too was fighting cancer. On February 17th I had a double mastectomy and tissue expanders were “installed” for reconstruction. My surgeons were able to remove the cancerous cells. For good measure, I received 27 treatments of radiation in early summer to reduce my odds of recurrence. My breast cancer is similar to a two act play as I’ll have a second surgery later this year to put in final implants.
I received many unexpected blessings last year. My yoga practice was one of them. Initially, just practicing pranayama helped lower my physical anxiety. My first official class (in a chair) was alongside those women warriors I mentioned earlier. It was March 11th. I couldn’t straighten my arms for a side stretch. The mental goal I visualized was down dog, which started with my spine resembling an “old gray mare” in a pasture. I progressed to Yin (thanks, Leila) and Spark (thanks, Tara) and found new ways to modify poses. Arm balances, back bends, and any heart opener can be a challenge. Even child’s pose was difficult initially as my arms didn’t cooperate with a deep forward reach.
Physically, my practice is about 75% of where I was before the surgery, depending on the class. Mentally and emotionally, my stamina has improved. After this final surgery, my goal is to regain the remainder of my practice. Even if I don’t, I’ve learned more about yoga (and myself) in 2014 than in the previous several years combined. I’m reminded of that old adage: be careful what you wish for. Of course, taking my practice off the mat is the ultimate expression of yoga.
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Yoga Bridge™ is a 501(c)(3) non-profit that provides evidence-based coping strategies to complement medical treatment for cancer and recovery. We offer free and low-cost yoga programs to all people affected by cancer. Students are part of a nurturing community where they find relief from fatigue, muscle weakness, and stress.