Don’t sweat it: Yoga is a “Work-In”

Find a quiet place and sit or lie in a comfortable position.

For the next minute, close your eyes and be aware of your breathing. Tune in to the rhythm, pace, and sound. Notice the location of your breath. Let any worries and concerns fall away as you focus on your breath.

Now start to match the length of your inhales to the length of your exhales, breathing through your nose. Once even, shift your attention to imagine you are breathing through the base of our throat (the soft spot between your collar bones). As you exhale one last time, open your eyes.

This basic yoga exercise took only a couple of minutes, but do you feel more calm and peaceful after completing it? (Didn’t do it? We encourage you to take a minute to do so now.)

At its center, yoga begins and ends with breathing as a way of connecting with your body and centering yourself.

“Yoga is not a work-out, it is a work-in.” shares yoga participant and instructor DeAnn Hoff (it is her favorite quote by Dr. Indu Aurora, yoga and ayurvedic master). After going through treatment and surgeries for breast cancer in 2007, DeAnn felt dissociated from and betrayed by her body. She resumed her yoga practice and found that it allowed her to reconnect with her body and feel control over it again. “It was so transformative that I wanted to share yoga with other cancer survivors.” DeAnn became a Registered Yoga Teacher, with a certification in yoga for cancer care. She now teaches Candlelight Yoga at Gilda’s Club Twin Cities on the 2nd Tuesday of each month.

“Yoga doesn’t require any fancy equipment or clothing. It doesn’t require a gym membership or athletic ability.” shares DeAnn, “It is about tuning in, listening to and observing your body.” She adds that it is easy to get “hung up” or discouraged in trying to perform the more difficult yoga postures and poses. “Yoga doesn’t need to involve complicated postures. The postures are really just about opening up the body to get the kinks out and release tension. They were created to allow the body to get comfortable so it can be in a meditative and mindful state.”

Liz Anema heard her doctor say, “You have a tumor,” in 2014. Just prior to her biopsy, she visited Gilda’s Club Twin Cities, wondering if the test results would have her participating at the center as a cancer survivor or a volunteer. An avid yoga participant and instructor, Liz felt an instant connection between her work with yoga and the stress and strain of a potential cancer diagnosis.

Fortunately, her biopsy came back negative, but the experience changed her perspective. “I have a greater understanding of what a person faces physically, mentally, and emotionally when cancer appears in their life,” shares Liz.

“Yoga has been proven to reduce stress, increase physical function and health, and improve quality of life,” all features that Liz has experienced first-hand, “and I want to share that with cancer survivors and those touched by cancer.” She offers yoga sessions at Gilda’s Club Twin Cities, focusing on the yoga of compassion, as well as Monday evening and Tuesday morning yoga classes at The Marsh.

Would you like to practice yoga and enjoy it’s health benefits? While there are many videos and on-line options, DeAnn suggests getting started by taking a class “so you can safely learn how to perform yoga postures and use the social aspect of the class to stay motivated.” Her first experience with yoga was by taking a community education class through her local school district, although there are many private yoga studios throughout the metro areas that offer classes as well. For those wanting to give yoga a try, Liz would like to offer you a guest pass to join her Monday evening or Tuesday morning yoga class at The Marsh (15000 Minnetonka Blvd, Minnetonka, MN 55345). Contact Liz for details: lizanema@themarsh.com

Both DeAnn and Liz have shared their gift of yoga with Firefly Sisterhood participants at past Firefly Dialogues. We are so grateful for their support of our Firefly program and for supporting those affected by a cancer diagnosis through the sharing of their yoga practice.

Written by Amy Tix, Firefly Staffer and breast cancer survivor, who loves the idea of yoga, but hasn’t put it into practice yet! Thanks for the reminder, DeAnn and Liz!

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