My name is Teri Roseman and I am a breast cancer survivor and a current member of the board of directors of Expedition Inspiration. I came back to a gentle yoga practice shortly before my breast cancer diagnosis to help me through an emotionally challenging time in my life. Since the time of my diagnosis and treatment, my practice has become more and more a part of my daily life. To the extent that I became a yoga teacher and therapist, opened a studio and continue to practice at some level every day.
A very practiced yogi and western medical doctor, Tim McCall said, that until you had a personal practice, you’re doing yoga for exercise and are not living a yogic lifestyle. Having only practiced in a group or private setting until that point, it only made sense to me once I created my own personal discipline as part of my regime. My practice consists of daily asana (poses), pranayama (breathing) and meditation. Anywhere from 7 minutes to a hour+ depending on the day.
Each day start with gentle breathing. Sit in a comfortable position. In a chair with feet on the ground, legs at a 90-degree angle, or on a cushion on the floor in a comfortable cross legged position. There are many pranayama techniques. A simple one to start with is counting the breath. Begin counting the length of your inhale breath, come to a steady rhythm. Match the length of your exhale to your inhale, get a steady rhythm. And to take it further if you’re feeling particularly agitated or need help to go to sleep, increase the length of your exhale longer then your inhale. This will slow the parasympathetic nervous system and calm the body and mind. Sit for a few minutes before beginning the physical practice.
I recommend a general all inclusive (flexion, extension, lateral movement and twists) asana sequence to work with for 3 – 6 months depending on what your physical, emotional, mental goals are. My personal sequences begin with a sun salutation derivative, followed by seated or lying down poses, moving to hands and knees poses and then standing poses. At the end of the physical practice, rest in svasana, corpse pose, supine on the floor, legs and feet relaxed, arms down by your side, about 8 – 10 inches from the body, palms facing up.
Come to sitting up. Find again a comfortable seated position as described above. It is important that you are comfortable and can sit for 3 – 30 minutes in meditation. There are many different techniques. I practice japa (mantra meditation) with mala beads (used to count mantra). A simple tool is to use the universal mantra of “So” and Hum. Just say quietly to yourself on the inhale, “Soooooo” and on the exhale “Huuummm”. If your mind begins to wander just bring it back with the so/hum mantra. Sit for 3 to 30 minutes.
For aerobic exercise I bike or walk 5 mornings a week, and as often as possible get out for a hike. I also take yoga classes a few times a week with my favorite teachers. There’s still no replacement for the group energy of a class! It’s easy to add exercise into everyday tasks. Bike to work. Take the stairs. Park the furthest away in the parking lot and walk.