Jenny McKane started practicing at Bikram Yoga SLC in January 2011. I practiced next to her today and she gave me permission to share her story. She is so strong and graceful in her practice. Her mind body soul connection is strong. Such a positive inspiration to all that know her story. We never know why people practice at Bikram Yoga SLC. But once I know their story, it is a testimony to me of the why students keep coming and practicing. We have the best students in the world. I appreciate all that come and practice even if I do not why they come. ~Greg
It was 2013 and I was 37 years old when I found myself in the emergency room in the middle of the night with severe abdominal pain. The pain was caused by a cancerous tumor in my colon that had grown to the point of rupturing through the colon wall and spreading cancer cells all throughout my abdominal cavity and into my lymph and circulatory systems. At that point, statistics showed that I had a 3% chance of being alive 5 years hence. Enduring a six-month round of chemotherapy was said to increase those chances of survival to 22%. So after two separate surgeries, I decided to endure the chemo, crossed my fingers and started the balancing act on that thin line that divides positivity, hope, & the belief in miracles from depression, despair, fear, and acceptance of death. The latter had more gravity so, unfortunately, I tended to lean in that direction.
Two years later, hoping I might actually be in the clear, but still believing otherwise, I began experiencing more pain. What the doctors and I were hoping was just a ruptured ovarian cyst turned out to, in fact, be the cancer. It had metastasized. By the time I got into surgery, my right ovary had transformed into a tumor the size of a grapefruit. Neither I nor my doctor could find statistics to show whether or not more chemo increased my chances of survival at that point, presumably because all of the statistical data (i.e. the patients) were dead. But I wasn't ready to say goodbye to my kids yet, so I told myself I could keep the core of my body alive while the chemotherapy tried to kill every other part of it.
But this time something was different. I was different. I was tired of reading medical journals and case studies and begging for non-indicated methods of treatment and arguing with ignorant doctors and, most of all, being pumped full of toxic chemicals that were destroying my internal organs and making me feel inhuman. Four and a half months into the second six-month chemo regimen, I made the very difficult decision to quit. It might have been the wrong decision but it just felt like the right thing to do. So I flipped it a big ol' middle finger, informed my oncologist of my decision, and I haven't looked back.
I can't pinpoint exactly what was different the second time. It could have been the books I was reading, the people I was talking to, unadulterated desperation, or, perhaps even cosmic intervention, but pretty soon I found myself drawn exclusively toward Eastern Medicine and ancient health and healing methods, including yoga.
My body thanked me for quitting chemo and I vowed to REALLY listen to my body from that day forward... to care for it to the best of my ability. And, you know, it was very hard to love and care for a body that didn't even seem like my own. I was a scrawny, emaciated, pale, hairless, weak, torpid figure covered in scars and filled with adhesions. I had very little energy to work with so I started out slowly and carefully by simply laying on my back on the floor every night and sensing tension and pain in different areas of my body. And then I would stretch and move in such a way as to address these areas. I was surprised at how instinctive it became and by how amazingly good it felt. Before I knew it, I was moving in a way that looked an awful lot like yoga! And I was completely convinced that something I had read somewhere not long ago was true: that these human bodies we inhabit do, indeed, have the ability to heal themselves if given the opportunity.
Fast-forward several months and here I am: strong, healthy, fit, and more mentally sound than I've ever been. Yoga has reconnected my body and my mind. For the first time in 3 years, I have a genuine, whole-hearted belief that I'm actually going to beat the odds and live much longer than expected.
I owe my current state of health, in part, to eating a very healthy and almost entirely plant-based diet void of dairy, sugar, and other substances that are believed to promote tumor growth. I owe it, in part, to opening up my heart not only to my support network of family and friends, but also connecting to humanity as a whole... expanding my awareness beyond what I can physically perceive. I owe it, in part, to letting go of every aspect of negativity that once seemed to have a choke-hold on my mentality. I owe it, in part, to learning to laugh and have fun and to keep a sense of humor in the face of difficulty. I owe it to meditation.
All of these things go hand-in-hand with yoga. The more I practice yoga, the more awareness I gain, the more healthily I want to eat, the easier it is to remain positive, the more connected I feel to everything around me, the less stress I feel, the more slowly and deeply I breathe. If done properly, yoga *is* meditation.
I currently practice 3 different styles of yoga including Bikram. Even the beginner-level Bikram class is decidedly advanced for a person whose body has recently undergone multiple surgeries and chemotherapy and who has significant muscle atrophy. I don't know that I would recommend it to someone who has no prior yoga experience.
But there are two things that Bikram has done for me that the other yoga practices have not: First, it has sped up the rate at which my body has been able to rid itself of the chemotherapy and radiation chemicals that would otherwise remain in my system indefinitely. The compression postures increase circulation of both blood and lymph and the complimentary sweating helps to flush the tissues. Secondly, the spine-strengthening series has helped me to regain back strength like no other yoga class has done thus far. I once spent 28 straight days laying in a hospital bed in an inclined position. As a result, my front body was chronically contracted and my back body stretched. Bikram yoga helped me to identify this imbalance and helps to correct it.
I constantly promote yoga to whomever will listen to me passionately rave about it. It has transformed my body and my mind. It has transformed my life. It enhances my feelings of strength and willpower and the concentration and focus it requires makes me feel like I can confidently and fearlessly take on the world. I wish it didn't take such a difficult turn of events for me to come to this discovery and realization, but I'm exceedingly glad I am where I am right now. Already, my passionate promotion of yoga has encouraged several people to take up their own practices. My hope is that yoga will help them to keep their minds, bodies, and breath connected such that a continuous natural healing process offers them full health and the ability to avoid cancer and any other of today's rampant and prevalent health conditions. Yoga for life!