In our quest for transformations brought about by yoga through Livin’ Life The Yoga Way – Interview series, we met this amazing woman Kathryn Livingston, who was diagnosed with Breast cancer only a year after taking up yoga. Like any other woman, she got anxious and fearful first, dealing with all the ‘what if’ thoughts. But like a woman of true courage, she did not give up on her faith in yoga and continued to practice during her therapy and later too.
Yoga, according to her, served as her anchor and taught her to live in present. A writer by profession, she is now bringing out her memoir, her journey and struggle, “Yin, Yang, Yogini“, is a woman’s quest for balance, strength and inner peace.
Kathryn is now all cancer free, full of sunshine and wisdom. Here are a few excerpts from her inspiring interview:
So, Kathryn tell us if you have a favorite yoga style or pose that you love to do.
Kathryn: I love all kinds of yoga; right now I’m training to become a Kundalini yoga teacher. I love the spiritual aspects of this practice. I also practice Iyengar yoga, which I love for the alignment and precision of the poses. And…I’m fond of Vinyasa yoga, too. I love to flow in my poses and life.
To know more about all styles of yoga, read: Yoga Lingo for Dummies
How has yoga transformed you and your life?
Kathryn: Before yoga, I had a glass-half-empty outlook on life. I spent a lot of time re-hashing mistakes of the past and fretting about the future. The main thing yoga gave me, more important than all the poses and the physical benefits, was the realization that I needed to live my life in the ‘here and now’ if I wanted to be happy. Yoga helped me become a stronger person–inside and out. And now my glass is full and over flowing!!
How did yoga help you combat Breast Cancer?
Kathryn: A year into my yoga practice I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Facing a serious disease, I called upon my yoga practice more than ever. Without yoga, the breast cancer experience would have been much more difficult. I used the mantra Sa Ta Na Ma (the creation cycle: Birth, Life, Death, Re-Birth) every time I began to worry or doubt that I would be okay.
Recent studies too point towards a greater role of yoga and its components in rehabilitation of cancer survivors, healing and strengthening them both physically and mentally. Read: How Yoga Helps Rehabilitate Breast Cancer Survivors
What things in particular helped you get through breast cancer and come out victorious?
Kathryn: When you face a disease like cancer you can feel helpless and not in control; yoga gave me a feeling of strength and my commitment to my practice was an anchor. Yoga helped me face breast cancer in so many ways. Physically, it kept me strong. I practiced right up until my surgery and began practicing again a few weeks after. I started with a gentle, restorative class but within a few weeks was back to my regular practice. My yoga teachers were also incredibly loving and supportive throughout my breast cancer journey.
Mentally, yoga helped me to stay positive. I used the mantra “sa, ta, na, ma” whenever I felt worried or afraid, especially when I was going through radiation and waiting for the results of various tests.
I also believe the yoga helped me to fall asleep at night when I was feeling stressed out; I would do long, deep breathing or chant “inhale courage” “exhale fear” until I was calm enough to relax and let the day go. Yoga keeps us in the present moment, and when going through cancer and the various treatments it’s very easy to let yourself go into all kinds of “what if” scenarios. Staying present was essential; this was something I didn’t know how to do before I started practicing yoga. So, really it was a combination of asana, pranayam, meditation and yogic philosophy that helped me through the breast cancer experience; each played an important role in my recovery.
That is so incredible. And I am so happy you finally came out victorious. You are such an inspiration Kathryn!
Tell us something about your yoga practice.
Kathryn: I usually attend three Iyengar classes a week at my local gym. I also attend at least one Kundalini yoga class per week and am now training to become a Kundalini yoga teacher. I love the spiritual aspects of this practice, and it is also very strengthening for the immune system, the lymphatic system, the nervous system and the overall body. When I was going through breast cancer eight years ago, I was practicing Vinyasa, and I still try to fit in a few Vinyasa practices every other week. When I can’t get to a class I practice at home. Yoga has changed my life dramatically, and the day just doesn’t feel right without it.
I’m sure you must have inspired a few at least around you to take up yoga.
Kathryn: Indeed! I have convinced, not pushed, a few of my non-yogi friends to start practicing. One suffers from a lot of physical problems like arthritis and now does chair yoga.
Kathryn’s favorite poses are Tree pose for balance and empowerment. She also enjoys the feeling of fearlessness Archer’s pose has to offer.
Tell us something about your memoir, ‘Yin, Yang, Yogini’, that is due to come out this year.
Kathryn: I have been writing professionally for many years and when I began practicing yoga and journaling after each class. I could tell from the start that this was going to be important in my life, and I wanted to keep track of the changes. Little did I know that a year later I would be diagnose with breast cancer and yoga would become such a vital part of my recovery.
Yin, Yang, Yogini: A Woman’s Quest for Balance, Strength & Inner Peace (due in April) is a memoir about two transformational years of my life, when I went from being an anxious and fearful mom to a woman of inner strength and courage. The book is about motherhood, friends, marriage, breast cancer, and life in general, but yoga is the thread that holds it all together.
I wanted to share my transformation with others because I still know a lot of people who don’t practice yoga and not everyone is aware of its many benefits. I especially wanted to show how yoga can change you from the inside out; it’s not just about the poses. Yes, it leads to a healthier, stronger body, but more importantly yoga taught me how to trust the universe and trust myself. Before yoga, I was always looking on the dark side and expecting the worst; with yoga, I learned how to be present in the here and now and to be grateful for life’s challenges as well as all the blessings.
Before we wrap this up, any advice you’d like to give out for our readers??
Kathryn: My best advice is to be here now. Let go of the past because it’s gone and you can’t change it, and realize that the future isn’t here yet, doesn’t exist yet. Being aware and in the present moment is a way to own your life. When you’re not in the here and now, conscious, and present you’re giving your power and your right to happiness away. Namaste & Sat Nam to all!
Kathryn Livingston is a woman of monumental strength and great wisdom. She often blogs inspiration for the Huffington Post and for the Kundalini yoga music website Spirit Voyage. Readers can visit her personal blog at www.livwrite.blogspot.com, or contact her through her website www.kathrynlivingston.com.