Sunday, April 10, 2011

Yoga at Chocolate Lake

Anytime I can combine two of my loves is a very good time.
Cocoa, resident dog at Chocolate Lake Hotel

This past weekend was even better. Chocolate Lake Hotel in Halifax was the venue for the 2011 Yoga Atlantic Conference at which I was presenting a workshop about my ‘Warrior Women – Yoga for Breast Cancer’ programme.

The view of Chocolate Lake from my room
Theme of the Conference was the Heart Chakra – Anahata – which was very appropriate. Our practice comes from the heart; every class is a satsang, a gathering of community and support. From my heart it is service, seva, to other women; a practice of being alive and awake in the world, of being connected.

In the summer of 2010 I was honoured with a grant from the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, the first time in Atlantic Canada that such a grant has been sought and awarded. It allows me to offer a year of yoga to women fighting and surviving breast cancer. The programme began last September in Moncton and we are now into the third of our eight-week sessions.

Nancy's scarf
Offering my workshop in the Conference’s contemplative section I talked about why I had wanted to offer this service, the grant request process, getting sponsors and the positive benefits of the classes themselves. While teaching in Ontario several students went through their fight and survival while taking classes. One of my precious possessions is a scarf one student wore during her hair loss and gave to me when she “no longer needed it.” I also taught at Wellspring, a cancer support organization in that province.

Triangle pose using blocks for alignment
Yoga is recognized by many in the medical profession as being a positive, beneficial addition to conventional treatments. In classes we focus on the importance of calming breathing and meditation, inviting healing energy into the body. Many asanas are similar to the ones I teach in any class, many are specific to breast cancer survivors, others are modified or adapted. We also have ‘tea and heart-to-heart talk’ times, a walking meditation and the ladies are encouraged to journal. We create a supportive, caring fellowship and assistance in adjusting to a ‘new normal body’. There is as much laughter as learning.

Cecilia, one of my Warrior Women came with me to talk personally about how she has benefited and share some of the comments from other women in the class. Together we demonstrated how we adapt postures to each body’s needs.
Warrior women during meditation

This poem, written by Karen, another Warrior Woman says it more eloquently than I could. It comes from her heart.


Can you make me feel good?
Can they take away?
All the pain and the fears.
That make up every day.

All the angels working for a cure.
All the people who are there for you,
     helps to be sure.
Can they understand:
      the scars and trials,
      the pain and the crying,
      the self pity and the guilt,
      the insecurity and the fear?
Yes together  -  to be with, listen to and talk with
women going through the same as you is
the best help of all !

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