Hi! I’m Michelle and I teach yoga to cancer patients.
I don’t teach pretzel yoga. I draw from ancient yoga–the yoga that looks at the whole self. Not just the body, but the mind, emotions and spirit as well. I work with each person’s whole self, using breathing techniques, meditation, philosophy, and gentle movement to support them through the difficult life chapter of cancer.
I lived through one of these chapters too.
From 2006 to 2009, I supported my husband, Jon, through brain cancer. It was the most difficult period of my life.
There were many things that helped us through that period–family, friends, ice cream–but one thing was especially helpful–our daily yoga practice. Every morning, for an hour, we did a simple yoga sequence and meditated. I saw how much this helped Jon. It helped him deal with the stress of treatment and tests. It helped him stay grounded as he maintained his full-time job. And it gave him a place to just be. He could move and breathe and find stillness in the midst of the cancer storm. And we could do it together which was especially sweet.
Something else that supported us was our meditation community, also known as a sangha. With this group we were learning about mindfulness and Buddhist philosophy which gave us perspective on the trials we were living through. Belonging to a sangha, a community, was particularly supportive and nurturing.
After Jon’s passing, I made an important life change. I decided to shift careers, leaving the performing arts and entering the world of service–I would support cancer patients with the rich offerings of ancient yoga.
I sought out specialized training so that my medical knowledge would meet the needs of those in cancer treatment. My background was in contemporary dance so my anatomy and movement knowledge was already extensive. Through this specialized yoga training I learned how best to support someone dealing with treatment side effects such as fatigue, nausea, weakness, anxiety, insomnia and depression.
At the same time, I was very fortunate to have a teacher in my sangha who, in guiding me through my grief, taught me about the nature of suffering. I became curious about the soul, life purpose and karma, and I learned the heart practices of lovingkindness, compassion, joy and equanimity.
All these pieces came together to support my work with cancer patients–I had a deep passion for and knowledge of the moving body and now I had specialized medical yoga training and an understanding of how the mind and emotions interplay with the body. I also had a deep familiarity with the fear and loss that goes along with the cancer experience.
In 2010, I put this knowledge and experience into service as I set up yoga programs in local hospitals and cancer support organizations in the Philadelphia area.
Other factors that inform my work:
- Post Traumatic Growth: finding or creating positive personal change after a traumatic life event. I feel that enduring a cancer experience is great fodder for this kind of change.
- Neuroscience: I want to ensure my work is grounded in research and our best understanding of how the mind and body interact.
- Somatic Modalities: incorporating a person’s whole being–mind, body, emotions and spirit–in the healing process. My experience with somatics, such as Bartenieff Fundamentals and Body-Mind Centering, in my dance career was invaluable. Those experiences help me now as I guide each yoga client in exploring their movement patterns and thought habits.
For me, yoga is not a form of exercise nor even a stress reduction practice. It’s an ancient philosophy that helps you see clearly your whole self. And the practice of yoga nurtures and nudges your most exquisite self into being.
Yoga and Other Physical Trainings
300hr Teacher Training in Yoga for Cancer and Chronic Illness (2013)
200hr Basic Yoga Teacher Training (2006)
Pilates Mat Exercises Teacher Training (2005)
CranioSacral Technique, Level I (2004)
Swedish Massage Certification (1993)
Mindfulness and Meditation Trainings
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Practicum/Jefferson University Hospital (2017)
Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra (2016)
Dedicated Practitioners Program/Springboard Meditation Sangha (2012/13)
Trigger Point Massage Technique
Body-Mind Centering Somatics Practice
Reiki, Level II
The Satipatthana Sutta (mindfulness/Buddhism)
International Association of Yoga Therapists
MFA, Ohio State University, Dance/Choreography
BFA, University of Texas, Dance