I recently caught up with Milwaukee-based yoga instructor Nancy Adams, who participated in my Yoga for Cancer Survivors teacher training, last June, and my advanced training, in February. Nancy is a retired family therapist and has been teaching yoga for those who’ve been touched by cancer at the Elmbrook hospital, in Brookfield, Wisconsin, twice per week on a volunteer basis. Please read what she had to say and prepare to be inspired!
What inspired you to teach yoga for cancer survivors?
I thought, “If I teach, that would be another way to learn.” I decided to do the cancer teacher training, and I wanted to do it yet didn’t know why. I felt compelled.
I haven’t had cancer myself, but many of my dear women friends had, and I thought it was something I could do.
Do you bring your own elements to class and if so, what are they?
I do some chanting, and I always give the option of using therapeutic oils. People love that part of the class. Yesterday I used Young Living’s Citrus Fresh. I just place a drop on the students’ palms, or put it on the crown of their head to bring in inspiration. I’ll tell them to imagine golden rays of joy and sunshine filling them, or the green of spring, and they love it.
I also do mudras as a centering part of the practice. It takes me a long time to think about my classes and prepare them, and I like to create a little theme for each; a spiritual theme. Yesterday my theme was Springtime and I link that as Tari does to cancer. For example, yesterday when I did bridge pose, I did three variations and talked about the bridge between one life (before diagnosis) and the next life (treatment) and the next bridge (beginning treatment and finishing treatment) and finally the bridge to a new life. It’s about focusing on the asana and what it means to a survivor. It’s challenging to think about and it deepens my own practice, too; my experience of the yoga.
What is your favorite yoga pose?
I’m interested in restorative poses and want to learn more about them. But I would say one of my favorites is the Staff of Brahma. (Click here for a version.)
What do you find most rewarding about your class?
The best thing about this from my perspective is the community that it’s built. Any type of critical illness can be so isolating and so lonely, and the people who come to my classes are crazy about one another. One woman brought her scarves for another woman who lost her hair. They encourage each other to take their wigs off during class. They’re a community and the support they have for one another is the best.