I’m often asked about my life as a wandering yoga teacher -- how it has impacted my life and, more importantly, my recovery from breast cancer. It has certainly re-defined both my practice and my teaching, but even more my perception of life. I have more clarity than ever on what’s important and necessary to me, and what's not. This is an ongoing transformational process that I try to honour every day, on and off the mat. .
It was 2014 when my breast cancer diagnosis threatened to derail my life as a travelling yoga teacher. It was a difficult period for me, fraught with stress, confusion and uncertainty. I wasn’t feeling physically sick, but was troubled by the judgement of my family and peers, as well as pressure from physicians to proceeded with surgery. Thereafter, I made a decision for myself to refuse any further treatment post-surgery (no chemotherapy, radiotherapy or hormonal treatment) after carefully weighing my options. So far, it’s been over two years since my surgery and I feel fantastic; stronger than ever and hopefully wiser through all the lessons learnt.
Yoga has infinite shapes and ways. Every person’s perception is distinctive. Every moment in our lives, unique. My only target then was to take care of myself and endure the healing process in the best possible way. I turned to yoga to recover physically, emotionally and to find a peace of mind.
I had to stop my daily Ashtanga practice, which I had kept on until the day before my surgery. Instead, I extended and adjusted my yoga practice to the new challenging circumstances:
- Asana: I started to combine traditional gentle Hatha with Yin Yoga (which I had recently discovered). Easy, soft, caring movement and breath awareness supported quick tissue recovery and enhanced the ability of my body to eliminate any by-product coming out of that healing process. I was also building patience and acceptance by observing my resistances to find peace in stillness. Although I’m now happily back and progressing in the Ashtanga "Yang" style of yoga, much of my practice and teaching continues to be heavily inspired by the "Yin" approach.
- Pranayama: Breath is life. It is the voice of our souls. Our breath is the connection between body, mind and emotions. It is also immensely detoxifying. With or without postures, on the mat or on the street, breath awareness is a powerful tool to channel our energies towards healing.
- Meditation: Easy techniques, chanting mantras, counting the breath… whatever helped me to get through the day. It helped me to carry on with patience, trust and perseverance, but without any specific expectations.
- Relaxation: Oh, rest. How do you rest when your monkey mind is angry and confused, and your inner child feels vulnerable and alone? Our body, our vessel, holds and processes all of it. True healing occurs when we allow ourselves rest. The all-important savasana in yoga practice is both an effective and intuitive way to relax.
- Yoga Nidra: Talking about rest, Yoga Nidra takes it to another level. It is top-notch! A holistic restorative "nap" that you have to experience to comprehend its effects.
Of course, I was taking care of my diet and other things. However, the bottom line for me was that the alchemic properties of yoga reside in the intentional and continuous attempt to build acceptance, patience and love, in order to heal and move forward with a better life.
This combination of techniques worked for me as a recovery and a re-discovery process. They are easy and accessible to all. I continue to practice and learn every day in my healing journey; and in my wanderings as a travelling yoga teacher, I seek to share my own experiences to help others find their own way to relax, restore and reconnect.
About Teresa Richard (Kshama Yoga)
A certified teacher in Hatha and Yin, Ashtanga practitioner and curious by nature, Teresa travels the world bringing ancient traditions off the mat and making them accessible to all.
Orginally from Spain, Teresa leads a nomadic lifestyle between Asia and Europe -- living and teaching "wherever she lays her mat" (when she has one). From teaching advanced asanas in a Teacher Training programme in Kerala, to guiding people into awareness and meditation in a Silent Retreat in Bali, Teresa is passionate about sharing yoga and meditation techniques to help us restore the lost connection between our exhausted bodies, minds and hearts.
In her recent 200hr training in Yin Yoga with Jo Phee and Jo Barnett, Teresa expanded and deepened her love for a style she started practising and teaching about two years ago when she took a break from her Ashtanga practice after breast cancer surgery. Yoga Nidra, Pranayama, Yin and Gentle Traditional Hatha were powerful tools of healing that she now decodes and breaks down with grace and a down-to-earth sense of humour in her classes and workshops. She hopes to empower every student with the internal resources to cope with the challenges they face in their daily lives.