I haven’t always been a devoted practitioner of yoga. In fact, for many years I was skeptical about it. For the entirety of my adult life, I have been involved in fitness endeavors—running, hiking, weight training, cycling, and kayaking, to name a few. Taking this time for myself has helped to support my good healthy and happiness. I have found that daily exercise calms my mind and improves my mood.
Yoga and meditation were always on my to-do list. Many of the yoga poses looked weird, such as “happy baby” and “eight angle pose.” Others had dirty-sounding names such as “easy pose” or “full straddle forward fold.” And, when I occasionally encountered people meditating, I couldn’t understand how anyone would want to sit on a floor with their eyes closed and breathe. I didn’t think it looked like much fun, and I certainly didn’t think it seemed like an effective way to achieve fitness goals, let alone anything else.
Then, starting about 15 years ago, I was hit with so much stress that I found it to be close to unmanageable. I was dealing with health-related issues with my young son and at the same time undergoing a job change which meant relocating from Texas to Connecticut. I was at home in Texas, and I had never lived on the East coast. The move was tough, and shortly thereafter, my father—a trusted source of love, support, and guidance—was diagnosed with advanced kidney cancer and died six months later. I felt helpless and, at times, hopeless. I tried to take care of myself through all of this, but I seemed to be falling short on so many fronts: family, friends, work, physical fitness. I tried therapy, but it didn’t help me at that moment. It became clear that I needed something else.
Someone suggested yoga, and I began my practice virtually on a whim. I took a few public classes mostly focused on asana. Being a book geek and a bookstore junkie, I wanted to understand yoga better, so I searched and read all I could find about the philosophy of yoga. Through this effort, I slowly began to feel more grounded and present, both as a person and in my work; I was no longer easily riled or reactive. Over several years, I developed better self-awareness and a greater sense of inner calm and outer stability. I enjoyed the yoga community. I emerged from my somewhat insular life and learned to recognize and deeply appreciate our oneness as a society.
I am also a twenty-four-year survivor of stage-one thyroid cancer. Today, I no longer fear dying from this disease, but I still suffer from dry mouth, dry eyes, and intermittent hoarseness of voice from the complications of my treatment with surgery and radioactive iodine. These symptoms are chronic, and I am reminded daily of my disease as I attempt to live a “normal” life. As more information has become available about cancer survivorship and the risk of second cancers, I sometimes worry about what’s next for me. However, I recognize that all I can control are my lifestyle choices. One of my choices is yoga.
I’m so glad I found yoga, as now I can’t imagine my life without it. My yoga practice has become the answer to coping with stress, both in my personal life and on the job. I have learned through my yoga practice to stand tall with an open posture, to breathe though anxiety, and to stay focused on the task at hand. I have learned to heal my body by enhancing my ability to handle stress and anxiety and by building my resilience, agility, and stamina. I have learned to embrace adversity rather than fear it, knowing how much I can grow from such challenges. All of this has thus strengthened my leadership capacity and capability.
Yoga has been so effective in enhancing my own life, both at work and at home, that I decided to become certified as an instructor so I could share this passion with others. Since 2012, I have shown others how to thrive through yoga by teaching the practice and its principles primarily beyond the mat—the ultimate goal.
Taking time to practice yoga supports my health and well-being. It’s worth it, and it’s at the top of my to-do list. What about you? Take a deep breath and please join me on this journey.