Guest post by Lara Macgregor, founder of Hope Scarves. Hope Scarves is 502 Power Yoga’s Karma Partner for the month of January.
Breath in. Be fully present with this breath. Breath out. Your breath exists in this moment. Each breath grounds you to this time and place…
When I was diagnosed with stage 4, metastatic breast cancer each breath was a struggle. I was suffocated by the future.
Stage 4 breast cancer or metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is when breast cancer cells move beyond the breast–often to the bones, lung, liver or brain. When people die of breast cancer they die from stage 4, MBC. The life expectancy for a MBC patient is 2-3 years. There are treatment options, but no cure.
I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007. In 2014 it returned in my bones, making me a metastatic breast cancer patient. I was terrified. My kids were 5 and 8. I was 37. How could this be happening? I was consumed by terrifying questions about our future. How would my disease progress? How long do I have? How can I cause so much pain for my family?
I couldn’t face the day because I lived in fear of what was coming. But then I found yoga which helped me release these fears and focus on the day before me.
502 Power Yoga became a place of peace and power. When I come to my mat, I let everything else fall away. I focus on my breath and I focus on the strength I have today. My body is responding to treatments and the cancer hasn’t grown in three years. Three years! I am what they call an “exceptional responder.” I have a hunch that my response is connected to the way I live my life.
I have learned to take the principals from my yoga practice and live them out in my daily life. Living a life of intention, I embrace this time of health. Instead of being consumed with fear of a perceived future of sickness, I focus on what is certain right before me each day. My breath reminds me I am living. I live a rich, full life. And the other day I even “flipped my dog into full wheel.” (You 502 Yogis will get how exciting that is!) Perhaps the only piece of goodness that comes from the pain of this diagnosis is this perspective of how fragile and beautiful life is.
I breathe in each moment. Letting go of that which I can’t control.
Each Sunday there is a $5 Karma Class at 502 Power Yoga from 5:30-6:30 PM. Money raised supports local community organizations. In January the Karma class supports Hope Scarves. I founded Hope Scarves in 2012 as a way to turn this scary experience into something positive to help others. We collect scarves and stories from cancer survivors and pass them on to others in treatment. We have sent over 6,000 scarves to every state and 12 countries. The scarves and stories connect us and help us find common ground. After my metastatic diagnosis, we started a research fund to help accelerate the discovery of treatment options for people like me facing this terminal diagnosis.
I look forward to seeing you on a Sunday afternoon to support Hope Scarves. Thanks to those who have already been a part of the class.
I am grateful to have found a place that helps me live the healthiest, most hopeful, intentional life I can.
Pushing 200lbs, I remember once struggling to run 8 minutes without stopping in Iroquois Park. At the time I was a caregiver to my parents: mom with cancer and dad with Alzheimer’s. The stress of this situation wasn’t helping my own health – I was eating my way into a size 18.
Then, my niece, Emilie Dyer, invited me to a free class at 502 Power Yoga. In the past I had used yoga successfully to stop smoking, so I figured it could also improve my overall health. At one point in my first class, I remember the instructor said to “kiss your knees;” I couldn’t do it. It really hit home then how big I had gotten. I’m going to have to work to get this off, I thought.
Rather than feeling intimidated by others at 502 Power Yoga, I was empowered by this community. I decided to take on the Sunrise Challenge in 2014, and also completed the 40 Days to a Personal Revolution program. Through these experiences, I gained insight into my emotional eating. I learned to be aware of what I was putting into my body and why. I gave up sodas and coffee, and today I only drink green tea, water and sometimes black tea. I have sweets as an occasional treat, and not with every meal as I had in the past. I witnessed these physical and emotional transformations slowly change my body. Over time, I saw cellulite on my knees diminish. I was able to do my first Flip Dog with Mimi’s instruction. I was inspired, and I fell in love with the community.
After some time, it seemed like my daddy was doing fairly well, or maybe it was me. Maybe I had learned to move with the universe instead of work against it. Yoga had become my retreat from all the drama of hospitals and doctors with my parents. I truly believe my yoga practice helped me stay calm throughout every situation and provided me the opportunity for self-care.
I can see how life has come full circle for me. The beginning of my transformation was the Sunrise Challenge in 2014, and more than a year later, after the 2015 Sunrise Challenge, I’m a size 8. My faith in God, my program of recovery and daily asana helped me physically and emotionally through those trying times. I feel those previous limitations fading behind me and conquering Iroquois Park is next on my list!
Week One is behind us, and last week we had a recipe for Vegan Chili (did anyone get a chance to try it? Leave a comment about what you experienced!) This week is a Quinoa Salad with Peanut Sauce (optional). This dish is light and high in protein. Feel free to get creative with this since it is easy to customize.
Quinoa Salad with optional Peanut Sauce
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups water (for cooking the quinoa)
1 cup shredded red or green cabbage
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup carrots, shredded or finely chopped
2 cups edamame
1/4 – 1/2 cup green onions, sliced
Fresh cilantro (optional)
Cook the quinoa by placing it in a pot with the water and bringing to a boil; turn to low and simmer for 15 minutes, or until all the water is absorbed.
Transfer the cooked quinoa to a large bowl, and combine with the remaining prepared ingredients.
At this point, you can serve as is, or make the peanut dressing from the below recipe to stir in. (If you have a peanut allergy, try almond butter, cashew butter or sunflower seed butter!) Enjoy!
“The inner fire is the most important thing mankind possesses.” Edith Södergran
As we begin the new year, you may consider using Heat on and off your mat to kick start your resolutions and fuel your inner fire. Heat is one of the Pillars of the Baptiste Yoga practice; in the studio, the most obvious source of heat is the room itself. Power Yoga uses the warmth of the room to allow muscles to loosen up quickly, and your skin to detoxify itself through sweat.
But this isn’t just “hot yoga” it’spower yogabecause, with each movement of your muscles into the poses, you are generating heat within your body. This internal fire is encouraged byujjayi breath. Ujjayi breath is created by breathing in and out through your nose with the back of your throat constricted. This friction of the breath and the throat actually warms the air entering your body; if you’re like me and remember little else from grade school science, you might, at least, remember that friction creates heat.
In his book Journey Into Power, Baron Baptiste says, “The strong flow of power yoga fuels the inner furnace, and the breath fans that fire throughout your practice.” We are responsible for creating heat in our own bodies, and though 502 keeps the studio at about 90 degrees, generating our own heat is crucial in our practice.
Gaining a new kind of access to stiff muscles, or finding a new range of motion and flexibility in them, can help to heal old injuries and teach your body new muscle memory. And, if on your mat you can stay grounded in a pose in the heat of the moment, just imagine where that can serve you off the mat.
It is the one-week countdown for Winter 2015-2016 Teacher Training (see Becca’s guide on what to bring) and I know I’m not the only one who has mixed feelings about it. Starting something new is always a little unnerving, even if it is a positive thing. Lately, life has been crazy and at times things have been packed so tight that it seems impossible to shove in one more responsibility. And yet starting next weekend, that’s exactly what is going to happen.
When I feel myself start to resist the process, I try and lean into that resistance. It makes me think about Frog Pose and how sometimes I just want to cry, or how I feel I can barely breathe but in a really weird way I kind of like it. It can still hurt, but taking it to that edge makes me better. I’ve learned these lessons already on my mat as a student. I think that through the training I’m going to start to see what it means to take that surrender off my mat.
For those who don’t know, Tina Guelda wrote all the incoming trainees a letter and she didn’t sugar coat anything. She suggests bringing Ibuprofen regularly because, “Your body and your brain will probably hurt at some point.” She concludes the letter by reminding us all that we are going to need support from family and friends even when we won’t be able to see them. When I first read Tina’s letter, I may have freaked out a little. What have I gotten myself into? But re-visiting it I realize that while it wasn’t coated with sugar, Tina instead dumped a whole lot of salty flavor all over the truth. And my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
What surprises me the most from all of this is how even though I’m a little nervous and I have definitely already held back a few melt-downs, I’m not doubting myself one bit. I’ve seen the support system 502PY has created already through its programs and when it comes down to it, I am not afraid. I have doubts about myself, my abilities, my schedule, my finances, and my mental will to carry on when things get tough, but I have zero doubt that when things get rough that I will have my support system to push me through it all.
As this new challenge sits in full Lotus Pose right on the strong, sturdy, and looming gate of Friday evening, I shudder to think of all the tears, frustrations, and emotional highs that wait for me right on the other side. But then I lean into the challenge, I read comments from my fellow trainees, and in a really weird way, I realize I’m going to like this.