A New Kind of Healthy

This entry was written by Karen Gagnier, a yoga instructor at Focus Fitness:

I initially tried yoga because I was a runner with tight hips and hamstrings, and because I had a good friend who continued to encourage (pester) me to join her in a yoga class.  I had heard and read about the many benefits of yoga but didn’t think I was a “yoga-type” gal and all that talk about breathing seemed to me to be a waste of time. But my friend persisted, and I joined her for some yoga.  The instructor made a point that yoga shouldn’t be judged on a single basis, that in order to experience the benefits, one should commit to several weeks of yoga—and I did.  Within two months my hips and hamstrings were more flexible and I was stronger.

Then my mother got lung cancer and I found that yoga was what helped me cope. Not only was I developing physical strength, I was developing mental stamina through my yoga practice. I wasn’t aware of being better able to cope, I just knew that I was better equipped to handle the stress of caring for a dying mother.

Then it happened.

Six months later I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Through it all–through the chemotherapy, the mastectomy, and the radiation, yoga was there for me as a tool… to help myself physically, mentally and spiritually.

Post cancer treatment, we all know that we experience a “new normal.” As a mother of four (ages 14 thru 21) I was ready to do something for myself, and I wanted that something to include giving back to others. That is when I decided to become a yoga instructor and more specifically, a yoga instructor for cancer survivors. Yoga had a huge impact on me and I wanted to pay it forward. This was confirmed when I took an OM yoga class in NYC for cancer survivors. I was overwhelmed emotionally when I walked into the studio and saw women of all ages, shapes and sizes, with their bald heads, bandanas, and wigs, but I left empowered. Being in the presence of these proactive women taking charge of their health was where I wanted to be. I wanted to be connected to these amazing women, and involved in spreading the word to other women about the many compelling benefits of yoga.

I now teach a yoga for cancer survivors class at Focus Fitness studio in Bryn Mawr and continue to be in awe of the ladies who show up to class: different ages, different bodies, different stories but all taking charge of their health. There are many women who have never taken a yoga class, or any type of exercise class, but are willing to open themselves up to new possibilities, and what I have learned is that yoga in its purest form is about meeting the individual wherever she is.  Yoga is a personal experience that is accessible to all. The first and most important step is to simply show up, and just do what you can. The benefits will unfold.

 Karen will teach others about the physical & emotional benefits of yoga at our December 14 program, Yoga: Uniting, Body, Mind, Spirit. Haven’t tried yoga before? Use this program as your opportunity to pay it forward—by showing up and supporting women with breast cancer. It’s that easy.

Did we mention we hold a fundraiser called Yoga Unites for Living Beyond Breast Cancer every May? The event is a basic, outdoor yoga class on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It’s a class for people of all ages and skill levels. This year’s event will be held on Sunday, May 16, 2010. It’s a great opportunity to come together as a community in support of women with breast cancer & to promote healthy living.

Why not go one step further and form a fundraising team? Whatever you raise is your donation to LBBC. Check out the event website for more details. We’ve also included some photos from last year below. Enjoy!




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