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  • Writer's pictureTierney Langdon

From power yoga to yin yoga: my personal journey - by Tierney Langdon


Tierney, a breast cancer survivor, practicing yoga

Tierney Landgon was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018. As a super active person, she had to learn how to slow down, hear her body and cope with her cancer journey.


Dancing, yoga, and cancer have always been a part of my life.


I have been a dancer all my life. My mom signed me up for dance class when I was about 3 years old. I fell in love with all disciplines of dance, and as I grew up it became my passion. Dance was the one thing in my life that I knew excelled in. It motivated me to stay physically fit and live a healthy life. I practically lived at my dance studios with class, rehearsals, and performances. In the summers we would have occasional teachers from other forms of exercise like step aerobics, pilates, and yoga come and lead us through their classes. I was good at a yoga. Dancers usually are good at yoga. Ballet requires good posture and alignment. Yoga creates good posture and alignment.


At 10 years I first learned about breast cancer, because of my maternal grandmother’s diagnosis. Shortly after she died from metastatic breast cancer, she called it “the traveling kind.”. This was a devasting loss for my mom and myself. My grandmother was my best friend. Her loss became the reason for my mom and I to advocate for breast cancer awareness, and support in finding a cure. As a college student, I joined a sorority where the very philanthropy was for local breast cancer foundations. Dancing, yoga, and cancer have always been a part of my life. As a young lady growing up I didn’t realize how integral they would become in my life.


I was mad, devastated, defeated, irate, annoyed, all things MAD.


Fast forward to 2018. I am an adult, an educator, a part-time dance instructor, and an equestrian. I also became a person with the diagnosis of stage 2 B breast cancer. I was mad, devastated, defeated, irate, annoyed, all things MAD. I was stuck in a state of what I called “pissedoffedness.” I made that word up. I had no choice, for my own sanity, but to create a way to cope with this diagnosis and the journey to follow.


The advice given to me was intense and all over the place. People gave tips from eating more all-natural foods, to juicing, and drinking carrot juice and graviola extract to all other sorts of other tips and facts. I was advised to get rid of all white sugar and processed foods, only drink high PH water and tons of other tips. The most frequent, and helpful advice was to keep my body healthy and moving so recovery wouldn’t be so intense.


I was told all of this helpful information, but no one could personally, step by step, tell me how.


So, I started creating ways to cope on my own. At first, it was too much. I didn’t know how to rest. I didn’t know how to take it easy. I am a kinesthetic person, being still is not that easy. In my case having just had a double mastectomy with drains hanging out of my body, a port under my skin, and preparing to go to chemotherapy to sit in a chair for hours bald, broken, and cut up; I had to learn to become still. I felt like this cancer journey was taking away EVERYTHING I love to do. And that is the moment when pieces of “yes you can’s” began to shift my mindset. So, shift the mindset I did. I took this time to learn how to understand my body and how what helps it best heal. I learned how small things can become a strong foundation for the big things!


In the past, as a dancer, gymnast, and equestrian I rarely took the yin style yoga classes. These classes are slow-moving with amazing stretches but very few moves that increase the heart rate. I always wanted the power power power yoga. With cancer and chemo now in my life, I had this opportunity to be still and learn how to do the meditative, slower callisthenic side of yoga. This slowly began my ability to understand and feel my body more. It gave me an opportunity to listen to what my body needs and be able to successfully give it just that. I learned how to focus on my core in every movement I made so that I wouldn’t be prone to hunching over or holding my chest as a protective measure.


I begin to learn how to move all over again as my body changed through the cancer journey.


The first 6 months of my recovery I did LOTS OF STILLNESS. I had a double mastectomy, a port placed in my chest for chemo, expanders as I waited for reconstruction, and a bald head; so there was not much that I was able to or even felt strong enough to do. I found guided meditations that were 5 to 10 minutes long. I listened to the directions, and I followed as best I could. I would attend physical therapy at a facility in Atlanta named Turning Point. The physical therapist would give me a few exercises each visit to help work my range of motion in my arms, auxiliary and pectoral muscles. I would then add them into my guided meditation. Slowly as my healing process improved, I would add a few more moves like squats and side bends and leg lifts into my guided meditation until I was cleared to finally attend classes at a yoga studio.


I started going to yoga studios and I would take YIN and Restorative style yoga classes. I would chuckle to myself about the irony of now taking classes I used to avoid. These classes helped me learn about the asanas (poses) in yoga and how each aspect of yoga can truly work to help alleviate pain and suffering in the body. I knew as a cancer fighter, attitude is everything. Yoga gave me that time to be positive to create positive energy and to manifest stillness in the chaos.

 

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