Cancer, Gratitude Practice & Yoga: Easy Ways To Significantly Improve Your Life

Developing gratitude is a practice and a skill which yoga supports. One way to engage in a gentle practice of gratitude is through the use of mudra. Mudras are hand positions and often called ‘yoga for the hands’. They are gestures which ‘seal’ our intentions or desires by focusing breath and energy into our mudras.

Lotus Mudra is one way to contemplate our gratitude. By joining our hands at the heart-space, we keep the base of the palms joined and touch pinky and thumbs together;  while spreading open our fingers like a lotus flower. The lotus flower is nourished by mud and fed by sunshine.

For cancer survivors, and I am one, this lovely gesture has even deeper and richer meaning. From the murky depth of cancer, there continues to be rays of life and hope. Can we hold both truths in our mind’s eye?

I find that a simple bouquet of flowers goes a long way to nudging my mind toward gratitude.  As we hold the Lotus Mudra, we can fill the container of our hearts by naming our blessings. Practicing gratitude takes less than 3 seconds and this small change can bring big rewards to our immune system.

Cultivating an “attitude of gratitude” depends on feeding the soul. We acknowledge the mud we all swim in, and see that difficult circumstances may bring opportunities, as well. I was talking with a newly diagnosed cancer patient just yesterday. He has been stubbornly independent his whole life. And he told me he was proud of himself for being independent. I told him that cancer diagnosis and treatment was a time to open up receiving help. We don’t “do cancer alone”!

Research tells us that those who have a :

  • Social network, far better during cancer treatment
  • Yoga can help fatigue and sleep
  • More fruits and veggies in our diets is better fuel for our bodies
  • Spiritual practices can be supportive of our immune system
  • Developing coping skills can ease anxiety

Yoga practices are more than postures for the body or asanas. A whole person is mind, body, emotions and spirit. We simply unite these aspects of the human experience with breathing consciously. As we progress, we consciously awaken to our everyday lives and see anew. We needn’t travel to India, yoga’s homeland, or even leave our beds to give gratitude aloud. I am not advocating ignoring the pain that cancer and its treatments bring. I am saying that these muddy waters are rich soul-food which demands we rise above the darkness. That in the midst of hardship, we do not overlook the tenacity of a weed to grow out of cement.

And though I don’t know you, when I give thanks during the Lotus Mudra, I will call your soul by name and include you in my gratitude. We journey together.

About Jean Di Carlo Wagner: Owner of Yogabeing.net
E-RYT200, E-RYT500 certified with Yoga Alliance
Yoga Therapist with International Alliance of Yoga Therapists
Atma Yoga Teacher Training, certified 500 hours Los Angeles
A Gentle Way Yoga, certified 200 hours
Silver Age Yoga, certified 200 hours

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Breathing, Yoga and Cancer

Breathing Yoga & Cancer

By: Jean Di Carlo Wagner: Owner of Yogabeing.net E-RYT200, E-RYT500 Certified Yoga Therapist with Yoga Alliance.

Breathing and yoga are powerful and have immediate benefits for cancer patients:  Together they offer the power to gain some control over anxiety, a restless mind, and the whirlwind of change that comes with a cancer diagnosis.

From my own experience of cancer, and being a caregiver to my middle sister and mother who also experienced cancer, I learned a lot of what is truly important.  I felt such a lack of control over myself during cancer treatment  that I began to control my environment to an unhealthy extent. Did I really want to use up my precious energy in cleaning? Didn’t being a good mother include cleaning, laundry, dinner and quality bedtime routines?  None of my usual touchstones of health were in place. And at one point, the dust balls in the corner seemed to mock and taunt me. I couldn’t keep up.

Dust balls are not that important, but our minds might replay messages of ineptitude about how we are coping with cancer. My mind told me that those dust bunnies were evidence of a person who was not performing her household duties and was failing physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Surveying our bodies and our breath, we take inventory of what is happening right now. When we focus our energy, we begin the process of letting go of everything else.  We are not our diagnosis.  We begin to see and feel our bodies, our emotions, and our spirits.  The breath carries us within and connects us to a greater truth.

Here’s a way to find your truth:

  • Settle into your surroundings.
  • Draw your focus to your heart center.
  • Feel your heart beating.
  • Feel your breath moving in and out.
  • As your focus becomes centered on your heart, let your heart open with each breath.
  • Listen and breathe.
  • Feel and enjoy.

I know that my students come to yoga class to invest time in themselves and their wellness.  It is a huge effort of energy and time and I don’t take that for granted. The room is set up to be inviting, relaxing, calming and accepting. We freely hug and greet one another. We take time to talk about where we are in our life’s journey or cancer journey. We do not judge ourselves or others. We simply come to place of “being.”

Blessings,

Jean Di Carlo WagnerAbout Jean Di Carlo Wagner: Owner of Yogabeing.net
E-RYT200, E-RYT500 certified with Yoga Alliance
Yoga Therapists with International Alliance of Yoga Therapists
Atma Yoga Teacher Training, certified 500 hours Los Angeles
A Gentle Way Yoga, certified 200 hours
Silver Age Yoga, certified 200 hours

Healing Mudras For Cancer Survivors

Healing Mudras For CancerBy: Jean Di Carlo Wagner: Owner of Yogabeing.net.

In yoga, there are many ways to connect to the Universal oneness. In postures, we call it asana practice. Through breathing, it is called pranayama. With our voices, it is called mantra. And through use of hand gestures, it is called mudra.

Each connection is from earth, through our bodies and to the energies of our spirits. Each form of yoga activates nerves, glands, mind, body and spirit. Yoga itself is a moving meditation. We open our channels of self healing.

Mudras are beautiful and powerful expressions of intention to draw on internal and external energy of our healing potential. As a cancer survivor and yoga teacher, I share mudras with my students. Mudra’s hand positions often have mantras and pranayama features. A common mudra is putting the thumb and forefinger together while mediating.

I encourage my students to make their own personal gestures to express their emotions. For example, there is a mudra for healing grief. But we each experience grief differently. When we turn into our bodies, we might feel grief in our heart chakra or in our naval center. We can use our own hand gesture to explore grief for ourselves. Yoga continues to grow and change with each practitioner. So why not learn from our inner guidance?

Jean Di Carlo WagnerAbout Jean Di Carlo Wagner: Owner of Yogabeing.net
E-RYT200, E-RYT500 certified with Yoga Alliance
Yoga Therapist with International Alliance of Yoga Therapists
Atma Yoga Teacher Training, certified 500 hours Los Angeles
A Gentle Way Yoga, certified 200 hours
Silver Age Yoga, certified 200 hours

A Short Seated Yoga Practice For Breast Cancer Recovery

A Five Minute Yoga Practice For Breast Cancer RecoveryBy: Jean Di Carlo-Wagner, M.A., RYT 500.

A yoga practice needn’t be long to be effective. In fact, a short practice yields large benefits for mind, body and spirit.

When we breathe consciously, we engage our parasympathetic nervous system. The “parachute” nervous system, as I like to call it, because it brings to mind the life-saving qualities embedded in it. When we practice conscious,   diaphragmatic breathing, we engage our brains in a way that turns off our “fight or flight” response. Our bodies begin to bathe us with “feel good” chemical releases that act as natural painkillers, mood lifters and spirit enhancers. These are only some of the scientific benefits of “pranayama”. The yogic benefits, on a subtler plane, are deepening an awareness of who we are:  a Divine and Spiritual being.  We expand our consciousness of ‘self’, from our own bodies, into the intuitive knowing of “Oneness”. We connect with all that is and all there ever was! We unite as One!

Blessings,
Jean Di Carlo-Wagner
Owner, Yoga Being
Only Online Advanced Yoga Training
For Cancer SurvivorsJean Di Carlo WagnerAbout Jean Di Carlo Wagner: Owner of Yogabeing.net
E-RYT200, E-RYT500 certified with Yoga Alliance
Yoga Therapist with International Alliance of Yoga Therapists
Atma Yoga Teacher Training, certified 500 hours Los Angeles
A Gentle Way Yoga, certified 200 hours
Silver Age Yoga, certified 200 hours

The Ultimate Journey in Life is Going Within

The Ultimate Journey in Life is Going WithinBy: Jean Di Carlo-Wagner, Owner of Yoga Being.

The diagnosis of cancer pierces the dense illusionary promises of ‘tomorrow’. In a moment, we stand naked with ourselves, vulnerable and raw. We have immediate decisions to make. What will be my path? What will be my outcome?

Just two days ago, an acquaintance I have known through friends and through music making, was diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer. “Jean, I’m thinking of going to Mexico for alternative types of low-dose chemotherapy. I’m thinking that I need more time to make a decision. I am afraid the chemotherapy will kill me. And that it will kill my immune system. Will I be able to play the piano if I get neuropathy? Playing the piano is my life.”

No one has answers for anyone else. I can share my experience and what I’ve learned from other cancer patients in the twelve years since my own colorectal diagnosis. But the journey one takes is within to find their answers. Cancer is a fierce foe, and can be unrelenting in its onslaught. Pain can drive our minds to dark and fearful places. If we go within, what will we find? Beyond pain, is there stillness within?

Escape is not an option for those of us with a late diagnosis.
Time is of the essence.
What we choose can determine the length and quality of our lives.
Only we know our values and preferences.

However, they can be difficult to discern in the midst of devastating health news. Only we can decide, and if and when, we say, “Enough, I am done with cancer treatments. ”

The polar opposites of life and death seem rigidity clear. Our earthly self cries out: “I choose life!” The question sparks an internal journey: life on what terms? My mother was very happy to sit in her easy chair; the patio garden provided hours of satisfying gazing. Was she meditating? Yes, to me she was. When I asked her, “Mom, what would you spend more time doing, if you had to live your life again?” She looked up at the hummingbird feeder, then caressed the budding flowers with her eyes. “I’d spend more time with you, doing this: talking and looking out the window.”A hummingbird for Jean's Mom

It was a simple, but profound answer: a Truth. Words that I use as a compass through the rough waves of my life. I reflect on my choices. Am I doing the things that make me feel happy? Am I taking joy in simple pleasures? Am I in this moment? In my mother’s answer lies the very basic truth of being. She spent three years in her easy chair. I spent many hours beside her. Together, we journeyed along a footpath to her final days. We had a long good-bye. Ultimately, cancer claimed the final blow to her health.

She was offered chemotherapy. She refused. She chose to return home and live out her few short weeks without treatment. Her decision came from within. I believe the hours of dancing with birds and blooms gave her an inner wisdom. My mother knew the cycle of life and rebirth. Her garden flower blooms spoke of their brief joys and whispered of a new beginning. The hummingbirds heartbeats move their chests and wings. “I will come to visit you as a hummingbird and a Monarch butterfly”, she told me. And she does.

I take time to look and listen for her. When I am at my lowest, one or the other avatars appear.

Blessings,
Jean Di Carlo-Wagner
Owner, Yoga Being
Only Online Advanced Yoga Training
For Cancer Survivors

Jean Di Carlo WagnerAbout Jean Di Carlo Wagner: Owner of Yogabeing.net
E-RYT200, E-RYT500 certified with Yoga Alliance
Yoga Therapist with International Alliance of Yoga Therapists
Atma Yoga Teacher Training, certified 500 hours Los Angeles
A Gentle Way Yoga, certified 200 hours
Silver Age Yoga, certified 200 hours

Diaphragmatic Breathing for Cancer Survivors

Diaphragmatic Breathing for Cancer Survivors

By: Breast Cancer Yoga Staff With Diaphragmatic Breathing By Jean Di Carlo Wagner: Owner of Yogabeing.net.
The diaphragmatic breath is the most calming and therapeutic breath. When constant stress leads to restriction of connective and muscular tissue in the chest area; a decrease in ROM (Range of Motion) is experienced. This decrease is due in part to unconscious shallow breathing. The chest does not expand as much as it would with slower and deeper breaths. Deeper diaphragmatic breathing is efficient because of the greater amounts of oxygen being drawn in the blood which then flows in the lower lobes of the lungs. Breathe Consciously. “It is as simple as oxygen helping to nourish the body, the muscles, and organs which then provides relief from stress, fear and anxiety. Slow, deep, and relaxed breaths calm the autonomic nervous system, producing balanced stable energy. Conscious breathing does improve the body’s immune function, and lower blood pressure. Make a conscious decision to start with 5 to 10 minutes a day of deep breathing. Watch video below and try diaphragmatic breathing.

A Few Words From Jean:
Learning to be with ourselves, lovingly and with compassion is a deep yoga practice. We check our breath, body, emotions, mind and spirit. We don’t change what is , we seek to know about ourselves and be present ‘here and now’. This practice is the basis of yogic meditation and mindfulness practices which can have been well researched to lower anxiety, add to send of control and well-being, empowerment and ultimately a change that comes without effort, but surrender.

Jean Di Carlo WagnerAbout Jean Di Carlo Wagner: Owner of Yogabeing.net
E-RYT200, E-RYT500 certified with Yoga Alliance
Yoga Therapist with International Alliance of Yoga Therapists
Atma Yoga Teacher Training, certified 500 hours Los Angeles
A Gentle Way Yoga, certified 200 hours
Silver Age Yoga, certified 200 hours

A Kindred Spirit So How Do I Help?

Kindred SpiritsJean Di Carlo-Wagner, Owner, Yoga Being Only Online Advanced Yoga Training For Cancer Survivors

“I been in a *German hospital for four days with a GI bleed,” said a rather pale man sitting next to me in the international airport to whoever was on the other end of his dying cell phone. “I thought I was better, but I’m still bleeding.”  My sandwich suspended midair, I contemplated what words to introduce myself. This is regular type of occurrence for me; since becoming a colorectal survivor and devoting my life to serving others. My prayer sent up, I began, “Excuse me, I didn’t mean to eavesdrop on your conversation, but I am an 11 year colon cancer survivor, on my way to Washington, D.C. to advocate for funding and prevention of gastrointestinal cancers. My name is Jean. “  *Dan told me that he lived abroad and had had a CT and colonoscopy in Germany; but nothing was found. A mysterious G.I. bleed can be fatal. We talked like old veterans comparing war wounds. He decided to get further testing in the States.

Believing that one’s dharma is supported by the Universe makes these encounters with people “normal” for me. Dan and I exchanged emails and I’ve been keeping up with his testing. Asking my network of “experts” what they would suggest and then writing detailed emails outlining the types of tests to request and how to be a ‘pain in the ass’ patient.  We must advocate for ourselves and educate others.  As I sat taking notes at the Digestive Diseases National Coalition advocates training the next day, I thought of Dan and the many others in his situation. It is part of what makes me keep fighting for prevention, awareness and funding.

Eleven experts in the field of digestive diseases spoke to us about the progress, problems, and the promises of research. New medication is making its way to market and networking. When you combine all the diseases of the digestive track, from mouth to anus, you have a total of cancers and diseases that outweighs any single part of the body’s cancers.  There is power in integrating the digestive track diseases into a coalition of advocates: the sum is greater than its parts. The main points that stick with me are 1) that it takes so long to become an expert in biomedical research, which effects all cancer advances. We have few young doctors choosing  to wait until 44 (the average age of the doctors getting  NIH grants) to get acknowledged in their field. This means the future is already compromised.  We should all be worried about this building gap in biomedical research. Of course in the meantime, 2) medical trials are expensive, labor intensive and burdened with government paperwork. This slow down means that new medicines are taking a very long to reach consumers. We all know how expensive new drugs are and there is legislation to expedite the process.  And, most critically, the reduction in the National Institute of Health’s budget for all medical research, in “real dollars” (those adjusted for inflation) means that the money  available is crucially important to increase this year, or we will fall further behind in all medical research.

After a full day of state-of-the-art training by the DDNC, the 50 patient advocates were pumped and primed for hitting the halls of the Senate and House of Representatives.  That’s when we heard that “due to snow” the government would be closed the following day. Our advocacy day was a bust.  Since when are snow days called the day before? Erika Hanson Brown, Mayor of COLONTOWN and I, and fifteen others, braved the snow and showed up, anyway.  I had flown across the country to speak my mind, and someone was going to hear me! I had Dan on my mind and five friends who have died from this scourge of a disease called cancer.  I was determined.

Stuffing gluten free brownies into my knapsack as rewards, I walked the Halls of Congress looking for an opened door. I found that South Dakota’s office was opened. I walked in and two of the nicest young woman listened to me rattle on about why I had come to D.C. and what we needed their Senator to support. Then I asked a question I always ask, ”Do you or anyone in your family have inflammatory bowel disease?”  I want to personalize the reason for the legislation, and in this case, one of the young ladies said she had Celiac disease.  “Yes,” I told her, “you have to have a colonoscopy at age 40.”   She looked stunned, but now she was informed. I had done one good thing.  It’s my minimum quota for the effort I put into advocating:  just help one person.

Ironically, California offices were opened, but they canceled all their meetings.  It was particularly disappointing to me that my own State would have its offices opened and still cancel all their meetings. Believe me, that’s another editorial that I will write.

I was able to advocate for integrative and alternative medical treatment.  While Dan and I were on the plane to D.C., he asked me about my work in the area of yoga and meditation for cancer patients.  I told him that he could change in his life in 20 minutes a day of a meditative practice, and gave him a magazine I had been reading encouraging all things meditative. While in New Jersey, I met with the founder of a nonprofit that offers yoga to cancer patients, at risk kids and soldiers with PTSD.  Kula for Yoga is a program in the Northeast, and serving underprivileged populations around my home town.  Their commitment to serving was just what I needed to get past the blow of not being able to advocate as I had planned in D.C.

Just today, *Dan texted me that he was on his way back to Germany with few answers. The possible answer for the bleed is that he had been using high doses of NSAID drugs for two years.  These have real risks and anyone taking them regularly should consider having blood and liver panel tests to see about their clotting time and their liver function.  For now, *Dan says that it is one BM at a time! Gotta have humor. Gotta have drive! Gotta have yoga and meditation to survive!

Blessings,
Jean Di Carlo-Wagner
Owner, Yoga Being
Only Online Advanced Yoga Training
For Cancer Survivors

Jean Di Carlo WagnerAbout Jean Di Carlo Wagner: Owner of Yogabeing.net
E-RYT200, E-RYT500 certified with Yoga Alliance
Yoga Therapist with International Alliance of Yoga Therapists
Atma Yoga Teacher Training, certified 500 hours Los Angeles
A Gentle Way Yoga, certified 200 hours
Silver Age Yoga, certified 200 hours

Yoga Brings Hope While Living With Cancer

Yoga For Cancer Survivors

Yoga For Cancer Survivors

Jean DiCarlo-Wagner, ERYT – Yoga For Cancer Survivors.

Cancer treatments may take away something essential to living:  Hope. My cancer mentor, Suzanne Lindley, continues to demonstrate the art of living with hope. Pain is constant, chemotherapy treatments, scans and the occasional blast of radiation.  More and more patients are living with cancer.  And after attending the Cancer Symposium in Georgetown University, there is reason to keep hoping about medical advances.  But what about today?

Yoga is my passion to share with other patients and survivors. Yoga brings hope that today can be better, right now, in the middle of the storm that is cancer. Research supports the healthful changes that yoga students experience viscerally. But yoga is not one thing, however, it includes breathing practices, stretches and meditation. The commonality is the relaxation response that happens during and after practicing yoga. Our conscious breathing engages the parasympathetic nervous system and cascade of healthful bodily changes begin.

Vanessa is a fellow colorectal survivor. She was diagnosed stage 4 at age 27. Aggressive and life altering treatments saved her life, but Vanessa lives with the fallout of these treatments. She is in chronic pain, and prefers naturally remedies to painkillers, which bring their own price. Vanessa tells her own story of how she uses yoga to manage her pain, neuropathy and the rigors of lifelong medical surveillance.

The power is in our choice to live on our own terms; and keep hope alive, day to day, through yoga.

Blessings and Love,
Jean

Jean Di Carlo WagnerAbout Jean Di Carlo Wagner: Owner of Yogabeing.net
E-RYT200, E-RYT500 certified with Yoga Alliance
Yoga Therapist with International Alliance of Yoga Therapists
Atma Yoga Teacher Training, certified 500 hours Los Angeles
A Gentle Way Yoga, certified 200 hours
Silver Age Yoga, certified 200 hours

Yoga For Cancer Survivors – A Teacher’s Story

Yoga For Cancer SurvivorsBy Jean Di Carlo-Wagner, Founder of YogaBeing.net

Before being diagnosed with colon cancer, I was misdiagnosed with depression.  After surgery  to remove 12 inches of colon, and I had weekly chemotherapy for late stage cancer in April 2003.

Six months later, October 28th, I celebrated being cancer free, however, my prognosis was not good. I retired early from a 25 year teaching career. At 47, I was clueless about what to do with my uncertain and limited future.

Before cancer treatments, I was an active exerciser:  yoga, weights and low-impact aerobics. During treatment, exercise consisted of getting dressed and attempting to make dinner for my teenage daughter and working husband. Everybody knows that chemotherapy makes you nauseous, tired and grumpy; at least that’s what happened to me.

Getting back to exercise was frightening and confusing.  I didn’t know where to start regaining stamina, strength and flexibility; not to mention how to regain inner balance and peace.  And my prognosis for a five year remission was grim. At close to 50, life seemed to be starting over, but where? and for how long?

Learning the ‘new normal’ took patience and loving attention of my starred and battle-tired body. I worked at home with a yoga tape, doing only the first ten minutes of the tape.  Basically, I was breathing and stretching.  It was a slow and tedious process. I thought to myself, “I can’t be the only one who needs a really gentle yoga class.” Ah-ha moment! Maybe I could help other cancer survivors.

Jean Di Carlo-WagnerI became a yoga teacher and started the first community-based, weekly yoga class for all cancer survivors in San Diego.  Soon, my journey to healing with yoga became a mission of love and hope to spread to others.

My Yoga for Cancer Survivors(YCS) class lead me to create an audio yoga cd. Overt the past five years, I have given away 3,000 YCS cd’s to survivors, hospitals and non-profits around the globe. The YCS class is now for free download and in English, Spanish and Slovene! Many other languages are being translated for future upload to the site.

I created the first and only online, International Advanced Yoga Teacher Training. I am now training other yoga teachers online: “The Art & Science of  Teaching  Yoga to Cancer Patients” and people in long-term treatment. My niche is specializing in the making yoga accessible to the most fragile of survivors. My 85 hour training started in January 2013. Many of my yoga clips and meditations are on Youtube, Soundcloud, Bandcamp and other social media for free download. Friend me on Facebook!

Now, I devote myself to being a yoga activist, directly supporting cancer patients and caregivers. I  have had many opportunities to be a cancer lobbyist and advocate in Washington, D.C.. Every friend I lose to cancer gives me more energy to keep fighting for medical advances, access to healthcare and prevention. My mission is to ‘heal cancer in the world through yoga.

“Healing is a state-of-mind and heart.”

What a gift today is and the opportunity to serve others is a blessing!
Jean Di Carlo-Wagner, M.A., Yoga Therapist, E-RYT 500
Owner, YogaBeing.net

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