Yoga really helped me improve my quality of life. My practice offered me tools to manage my chronic pain and identify unhealthy thinking patterns. I wanted to show people that there are other ways to live, ways that minimize suffering.
Q: What inspired you to teach yoga for cancer survivors?
My experience with cancer actually began long before my experience with yoga. Over 20 years ago, I lost my grandmother to cancer. She was very special to me, but not an easy person to love. I watched as her support system disintegrated as she grew weaker, and I thought that there must be a better way to be with cancer. I didn’t originally think to work with people with cancer when I started teaching yoga, but I was drawn to the therapeutic side of yoga. This led me to work privately with people. Right from the beginning, cancer showed up: between the time that we scheduled the appointments and seeing them, several of my long-term students received a cancer diagnosis. I worked with these people one-on-one and realized how much it help them. That was 4 years ago and I haven’t stopped!
Q: What have you enjoyed most about working with this population?
They laugh at my stupid jokes… No, actually, the people that come into my classes who are dealing with cancer have very few ego issues. They are so open and willing. “What have I got to lose?” is such a liberating attitude to work with! And yes, they do laugh quite easily.
Q: When and where do you teach classes for cancer survivors?
Tuesdays noon-12:45 at Breathe Los Gatos
Wednesdays 10:00-11:00am at Kaiser Santa Clara
Wednesdays 1:30-2:45pm at Samyama Yoga Center (for Stanford)
Wednesdays 6:00-7:00pm at Cancer CAREpoint
Thursdays 1:30-2:45pm at Samyama Yoga Center (for Stanford)
Q: What was the most useful element of y4c training for you?
The first workshop I took with Tari taught me how to say the word “cancer” out loud without fear or judgement, and the second training I took with Tari taught me how to feel the limitations of some of my students through the experience of taping and padding my body and then practicing a yoga class. Both changed the way I was teaching!
Q: How do you bring your own teaching elements into the y4c classroom?
I incorporate many pauses and check-ins throughout the practice, because I want people with cancer to develop their “inner” listening skills, which can be used in situations off the mat as well. I love using analogies – especially if they incorporate animals – to teach the actions of the body. It usually brings a smile to their faces and a twinkle in their eyes.
Q: Has y4c training/teaching impacted you in any unexpected ways?
Yes! I found an ally in what I knew to be true: that people with cancer need movement – even subtle movement, and that empowering the students when they feel at their most powerless is important. Since I don’t have a cancer experience of my own, I doubted these ideas until I heard Tari explain them.
Q: What is your favorite asana and why?
I love pigeon pose – sometimes called swan pose. It’s the pose that started it all for me! My chronic back pain was reduced so dramatically after my very first yoga class, and it had to do with practicing this pose. For the past 15 years, I have tried to find some way to do this pose every day, or else my back reminds me!