Monday, February 24, 2014

A Little About... Veronica Reis, PhD

In April, I will be sharing my passion for working with people with cancer, and training others who want to use yoga as a tool to help those on the cancer journey. When I stepped on this path, I struggled to find information to help me develop my yoga classes, so I began collecting information. Years later, I'm calling on my experts to help me explain what we've discovered along the way.

Veronica Reis, PhD, is a health psychologist, and a registered yoga teacher whose training emphasized yoga therapy and Kundalini yoga. She has been working with people diagnosed with cancer for 13 years, 6 of those years as a licensed clinical psychologist. Veronica will be a guest lecturer in my training program, discussing the psychological impact of cancer. Here's a little more about her:

I have been living with cancer for 20 years

I was first diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 28, with two recurrences following, and in 2003, I was diagnosed with cervical cancer. I was on my way to becoming a health psychologist because of my fascination with the mind-body connection; little did I know I would be diagnosed with cancer, with no family history at that time, less than two years after starting my education. My diagnosis only fed my curiosity even more intensely.

I have had multiple surgeries, undergone radiation, and two different types of chemo. I'm fortunate that the breast cancer I had was sensitive to hormones and I am able to take a small white pill each day that minimizes these hormones within my body and keeps the cancer at bay. On the other hand, I am still working on healing from the blow of having lost the ability to have children due to the cervical cancer.

It wasn't until a couple of years ago that I tried my first yoga class. 

It is within yoga that I finally experienced the mind-body connection that had attracted me for so long.

I came to understand that no matter how near or far from a "perfect" pose I am, as long as I go to my edge, I derive as much benefit as the person who can assume the fullest expression of the same pose. That was a huge revelation to this woman who couldn't even touch her toes! I've also learned that Bhakti yoga [yoga of devotion] and Naad yoga [yoga of chanting] are some of the fastest and surest ways to open my heart deeply and fully. I have been studying kirtan [chanting] with Prabhu Nam Kaur for over two years now and attend every kirtan concert I can.

My journey with cancer came full circle when my mother was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer.  I lost both of my step-fathers to cancer (esophageal and colon), and my father lives with a form of leukemia, but the privilege of caring for her in the last few months of her life made a deep impact. She was fiercely independent, and being able to share her journey as her caregiver was such a lesson in Life and Death and Healing.

Practicing (even imperfectly!) the eight limbs of yoga - whatever style(s) of asana one practices, can be a wonderfully potent tool for dealing with cancer, at any place in one’s journey.”

Welcome, Veronica. I'm so honored to have her contribute to this upcoming training! If you are interested in learning more about this training, please click HERE. Thank you.