How Cancer Helped One Family Discover Yoga

Have you ever come to yoga on a weekend and seen the Miller family funnel into the practice room?  Sometimes, up to 8 of them!  It is a heartwarming sight to see this large family doing something together.  It is not often that parents and adult children share a common hobby or love, other than eating or religious observance.  The Millers’ journey to yoga may sound unique, but in truth their story is not altogether uncommon.

About 5 years ago, the Miller matriarch, Julie, was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Julie wanted to continue practicing yoga, but she was not up for regular trips to Harmony Yoga.  She arranged for private home classes with Najla Barile.  Practicing yoga during this challenging time in life proved beneficial in many ways.  Yoga helped Julie to manage the fear inextricably intertwined with serious illness as well as allay the anxiety of the new reality of living with a cancer diagnosis. 

Julie noted that once she started chemotherapy, she went from feeling completely healthy to feeling “pretty crappy” rapidly.  Practicing yoga helped her feel more connected to her body and thereby better able to understand the changes she was experiencing.  During the worst part of chemo, yoga assisted in alleviating nausea and body aches.  Most interestingly, Julie said, “it actually helped keep my energy levels higher.  I didn’t have the terrible fatigue that many others I have seen go through.” 

Julie never asked her family to practice yoga with her.  The classes were open to anyone who was home and interested.  Initially Julie’s husband, Jeff, began practicing yoga with Julie along with Sophie her youngest child who was then in high school.  Sophie’s first memory of practicing yoga with her family is seeing her bald dad struggle with inflexibility and her bald mother do a headstand!  The rest of the adult Miller children joined whenever home for the weekend or on school break.

Having her family physically nearby practicing yoga gave Julie peace of mind.  She said, “Their love and support was so present with me during the practice.”  It was uplifting for Julie to do something normal with her family and visa-versa.  5 years later, all the Millers practice yoga on their own, and it is an important part of their lives.  In fact, Julie and Sophie are recent graduates of the Harmony Yoga Teacher Training Program.  Both are excited to share yoga’s gifts.  Julie is especially proud of Sophie who did her formal yoga training the summer before commencing medical school at Julie’s alma mater, The Medical College of Wisconsin.

Julie is now living cancer free.  She and Jeff practice yoga regularly and together with the rest of their family whenever possible.  Like everyone, their family has highs and lows, but they know that yoga will always be there for them.  Julie put it this way, “One of my teachers taught me, yoga is a journey, not a destination.  Our family is taking this wonderful, meaningful journey together.  I think we each have our reasons and get different things from yoga…but it is very special that we can do it together!”  Julie participates in teaching the free community classes at Harmony Yoga.  Please check out the website for dates and times.

Written with love by Susan Laskoff.

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