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5 Yogis Using Their Practice to Heal On The Mat

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These yogis have used their yoga practice to help them battle life-long illnesses and fight cancer.

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1. Andrea Clary

“2018 was the most challenging year of my life thus far. I received news that would change my life forever. A diagnosis that hit me like a ton of bricks and would alter my life course. I went from bike riding, teaching yoga, and working full time as mental health professional, to being confined to a hospital room. My body now felt as though it was no longer my own, but a landscape for science and medicine. I endured several rounds of chemo, invasive procedures, and rapid changes in my physical and mental state. I was stripped of my physical strength, my weight, my hair, my practice and many other things I clung to. Suddenly, I had to choose whether to live fully and fight, or give in. I made up in my mind I wasn’t here to give up. I was here to triumph. I held on to this idea through every moment I experienced fear, pain and sorrow. I would say out loud, “This will not be my life.” I was faced with learning how to spiritually grow through stillness in the midst of an experience testing every fiber of my being. In that stillness, I began to discover myself. I discovered grace. A word that was beautifully appointed by my closest friend in my darkest time.

Yoga isn’t just helping me heal, it’s helping me live. It aided me in fortifying my mind, body and spirit. It helped me understand a new concept of strength, helping me soar over each medical hurdle I faced. I claimed remission and 8 months later, here I am in remission, cancer FREE. Continued healing in my navigation of this second life is a process I work towards through yoga and an evolving spiritual practice. With each day there may be a new challenge and it may thwart you. Keep going anyway. Personal growth is not linear. There may be loops, triggers, setbacks or repeated patterns, but each is designed to help you learn and propel you further. You are more than a diagnosis. You are a soul having experiences bringing you to and through circumstances contributing to growth. You are a source of light made to shine brighter than your wildest dreams. Believe in this, believe in yourself and believe you are uniquely crafted to inspire!”

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2. Adria Moss

“Hi, my name is Adria and I define warrior. I very well could’ve gave up 13 years ago after being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. I very well could’ve thrown in the towel 6 years ago after my surgery left me on life support. I could’ve stopped when I couldn’t work and couldn’t afford my car payment anymore. I could’ve given up when I filed bankruptcy alone without a lawyer at 21 because I couldn’t afford to pay my medical bills. I could’ve given up when I suffered from depression and suicide ideation. I could’ve given up at the sight of my own body, now scarred by the trauma. I could’ve not shared this with you but for what? I could’ve done a lot of other things besides get up time and time again. And honestly, my story is very undefined. You see the beauty, you see the healed scar, you see the good and I’m glad. Pain should indeed polish you. But just know that this lotus comes from the mud. And I wouldn’t change a thing. Favored. Highly blessed. And motivated to change the way we view one another. Every one is fighting a battle unseen, don’t you ever forget it. I will continue to be uplifted and shine the light that was so graciously given to me. This is warriorism, undefined. Don’t run from the pain, run towards it.”

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3. Yulady Saluti 

Today is my Cancerversary. 7 years ago I opened my eyes from surgery and saw my husband [husband’s] face. Instead of the smile I was expecting I noticed a tear rolling down his cheek. Instinctively I asked him “how did the surgery go?” As soon as he spoke I understood where his beautiful smile had gone. “Honey, you have cancer” were his words. When he spoke the words they seemed to hang in the air for a while. Then the words started to settle. Out of the air the words drifted and took a seat right in the center of my chest. We had been through so many problems with my health already. We held each other and cried. It was one of those cry’s that leaves you heaving for breath. Why me?! Why now?! My mind raced. Finally, after what seemed like forever, we started to take slow deep breaths together. Syncing our breath made it feel like we were one. Cancer had no chance at that point. Together we can do anything. Whatever Cancer wanted it could have. It couldn’t take “us” away from each other no matter what it took from me.”

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4. Jessica DiLorenzo 

“A lot can happen in 3 years if you put your heart to it. 3 years of intense emotional and physical healing. 3 years of loving wholeheartedly. 3 years of making peace with new pieces of me. 3 years of receiving guidance and support in so many forms. 3 years of developing skills for deep listening. 3 years of trusting my intuition, of forgetting and remembering. I’m just far away from it now that sometimes I forget it ever happened. Those are the best days. This week I did a lot of reflecting on the struggles and the growth, knowledge, and appreciation for EVERYTHING that came after. Thank you to the teachers (especially the little tiny ones) who guided me straight back to my heart when I started to stray. Presence is everything, and working with children and their teachers/mamas demands it of me. What an honour to serve in aprofession that gives students and teachers voice and freedom to express knowledge, feelings, and creativity in so many forms. This is a great life. I’m thankful to be here with all of you. #3yearsfreeofcancer”

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5. Ash “Breast Cancer Yogi”

“When I found out I had breast cancer, I was afraid I’d never achieve my goal of doing a handstand. But I realized it was my LIMITING BELIEFS that were keeping me from even trying:

➣ “I’ll never have the range of motion I did before my mastectomy”

➣ “I’ll never have the strength I did before my mastectomy”

➣ “I will be too sick to train as hard as I want to”

➣ “I am diseased”

➣ “My athletic life is over”

➣ “I might as well give up”

Then I saw people like @paige_previvor hitting the gym after her mastectomy. @katiemarvinney running the Boston Marathon after chemo. These inspiring women were living their lives and crushing their goals–and I wanted to be one of them.

So I replaced my limiting beliefs with positive ones, and just like that… my life overflowed with potential.

➣ “I’ll work within my new limits, but I’ll keep pushing to expand them”

➣ “I can get stronger than I ever was before”

➣ “I will accept off days for what they are, and bounce back with a vengeance”

➣ “I have been given a new chance at life”

➣ “My new athletic life is just beginning”

➣ “I will never give up 

Follow @yogajournal on Instagram to see a weekly spotlight of inspiring yogis in our community. 



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Take a Look Inside The Rady Children's Hospital Yoga Program

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A volunteer yoga program at Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego is bettering the lives of its oncology kids.

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How Yoga Helped One Child with Cancer Recovery

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Learn more about Julia’s story.

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Why Isn’t Yoga Covered By Health Insurance?

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The short answer is, it’s complicated.

We spoke with John Kepner, executive director of the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT), and Courtney Butler-Robinson, stress management specialist and yoga therapist for the Dean Ornish Reversal Clinic at Saline Heart Group in Benton, Arkansas, to find out why yoga therapy is largely uncovered by health insurance companies. Dean Ornish, MD, made headlines in 2010 for convincing insurance companies that yoga and meditation, when combined with proper diet and exercise, could reverse heart disease. To date, yoga therapy is covered only under the Ornish Reversal Program for heart disease, but some affiliated clinics, such as Saline Heart Group, are beginning to offer cancer care.

Yoga Journal: With all of its proven benefits, why is it so hard to get yoga covered by insurance?

John Kepner: That’s the big question. IAYT is a self-regulated organization—it’s all voluntary. We have standards and an accrediting body, continued education, certification, and an enforceable code of ethics, but we don’t yet have a certification exam. All professional health fields have some kind of exam. IAYT has just launched that effort, and I expect it will take another two years to complete. Those are necessary but not sufficient pillars when you’re talking about insurance. In most cases, but not all, insurance coverage extends to licenced health care fields.

Courtney Butler-Robinson: We are a wellness center and offer different programing. We recently extended into cancer care. The Ornish Reversal Program is the only program I know of where the whole thing, including yoga therapy, is covered by Medicare. Oftentimes, people who have cancer or have been given chemo will end up with heart problems, and in that case, we can often bill under that.

JK: One of my personal goals is yoga therapy insurance coverage for people recovering from cancer care. Their bodies have been wrecked by chemo. They need something to bring body and mind back to well-being. There’s a lot of research showing yoga can help with that. IAYT is connected with the Society for Integrative Oncology, which is seriously exploring yoga now.

See also Why More Western Doctors Are Now Prescribing Yoga Therapy

YJ: How do you see this goal coming to fruition? Will insurance-covered yoga therapy be siloed by illness or ailment, beginning with cancer and heart disease?

JK: I just don’t know. We are feeling our way. As mentioned, the Society for Integrative Oncology has two committees looking to yoga. For now, they are working independently of us, although we communicate with them. We are also developing a way to have insurance cover yoga therapies by health condition. My personal thought is that cancer is a good disease to start with. There is a lot of research and general sympathy. Heart disease is already addressed by the Ornish program.

CBR: I think Ornish will get prostate cancer covered in the next five
years. We just need to prove to insurance that this therapy will save them money.

JK: There are plenty of creative possibilities for financing yoga therapy in a health care setting beyond insurance. I wrote about it in 2005, but it’s still relative today. Anyone interested can look to my paper, “Financial Support for Yoga Therapy: A Montage of Possibilities,” published in the International Journal of Yoga Therapy



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