How does yoga help the healing process?

When you step into a yoga practice that is really attuned to your physical and emotional needs, you feel safe, you can deeply relax, and the mind can go into a neutral space to interrupt usual patterns of worried thinking or self judgment.

In order to heal there has to be a moment of neutrality, an opportunity to become the observer of your experience instead of thinking you can control everything.

Yoga allows people to observe how much pressure they put on themselves and experiment with letting it go, even if just for the duration of the class. It helps them move their bodies to discharge anger, fear and pain.

Kundalini Yoga is known as the yoga of awareness and uses movement, breath work, mantra, and meditation to help you connect to your body, mind, energy and true Self.

“For some people in class, this is the first time they have tried yoga, but they are with a tribe of others who have walked through fire. To be in that environment and to know your teacher and fellow students know what it’s like and are still doing the practices together and rejoicing is powerful.”

~ Judy, Program Participant

JoyBoots & Research

Kirtan Kriya is a meditation that can help as we live through interesting times to bring stability to the mind and calm to the nervous system.

I conceptualized and collaborated with Ashley Henneghan, NP, PhD, on testing the impact of this meditation on people experiencing chemo brain and I’m excited to share this article detailing the research.

I met Ashley in 2016, by helping her recruit JoyBooters for her study on the prevalence and impact of chemo brain on breast cancer survivors at the University of Texas School of Nursing, where she is now an Associate Professor and Researcher, and Founder of the Henneghan Lab: Cognitive Health Initiative for Cancer Survivors.

We were both yoga and meditation practitioners and began to discuss collaborating to research meditation, specifically Kirtan Kriya, as an effective intervention for cognitive impairment (chemo brain).

Based on prior research from UCLA showing that Kirtan Kriya reduced inflammation and improved memory and cognitive function, and from my own experience practicing and teaching it, I suggested we study its measurable impact on people suffering from chemo brain. See this recent article from UCLA:

Ashley is a leading researcher on quality of life and wellness after cancer and always has several studies happening at once. Nevertheless, she found a way to get funding for a pilot study on the impact of Kirtan Kriya on post-chemotherapy breast cancer survivors.

My role was to teach the meditations, explore questions or resistances to daily practice with the participants, and check in on them regularly.

Interestingly, the study also found that perceived cognitive changes following (breast) cancer treatment are multifactorial. Higher stress levels, loneliness, daytime sleepiness, and poorer sleep quality are linked to worse perceived cognitive functioning. Also, stress, loneliness, and sleep quality may affect cognitive functioning through a shared psychobiological pathway.

Interventions targeting stress, loneliness, and sleep quality may also improve perceived cognitive functioning in (breast) cancer survivors.

These are difficult challenges. JoyBooter programs can be a powerful tool to address many of these symptoms through community, yoga movement, processing traumatic moments together, and learning meditation tools.

Check out more research articles and resources at Henneghan Lab: Cognitive Health Initiative for Cancer Survivors.

Rest and Resources


Rest can be so under valued in our culture, but it’s crucial for both emotional and physical healing.

Look for opportunities to seek a place of rest in your everyday life, a concept from The Five Invitations: Discovering What Death Can Teach us about Living Fully.

and Krista Tippett’s On Being Podcast where she interviews Katherine May about wintering.


1. Cutting edge research on survivorship if you have been treated for breast cancer in the past 5 years, are over 21 years of age, live in the U.S., and use a smartphone (you may be eligible to participate).
Contact my colleague, Ashley Hennegan, PhD, RN, FAAN, here.

2. Rakefet Laviolette, LPC Associate, is offering a new Group for Caregivers. Details can be found here.

3. Moving Beyond Cancer Coalition Classes : 

Classes on healthy survivorship, movement and more,

Research Opportunity on Survivorship (with compensation)

Many of you know what it’s like to be in the infusion center, walking in with mixed feelings of trepidation and hope. That’s kind of how I have felt moving into 2024.

On the hopeful side, my updated version of the online course Healing Well: Reconnect with Your Life after Cancer is almost finished and I’m feeling proud!  It has most of what I’ve learned and taught over the past 30 years as a psychotherapist and yoga/meditation teacher (with 16 years as a cancer survivor) and it offers a framework for validation, resilience and healing you don’t find elsewhere.

I’m so ready to share more widely these valuable tools for reclaiming your time and life. My experience has taught me that we humans need MORE support and connection, not less, in order to feel emotionally healthy, content and joyful.

Speaking of tools, many of you participated in the 2019-20 study conducted by Ashley Hennegan, PhD, RN, FAAN, and me on how meditation can positively impact cognitive function after chemotherapy (AKA chemobrain) and other side effects from cancer treatment. You can see the published study here.

Ashley continues her groundbreaking research into survivorship at the University of Texas at Austin and has asked for our help recruiting participants to finish collecting data.  Who’s in? There’s even compensation for participating. The eligibility info can be found here.

And fellow Joybooter, Rakefet Laviolette, LPC Associate, is also offering a new Group for Caregivers. Details can be found here.

Please share these resources widely.

JoyBoots Meditation for Clarity and Calm

It can sound mysterious and there are many traditions of meditation.

Experiment with this simple JoyBoots Meditation for Clarity and Calm that uses a segmented breath to engage your relaxation response.  Rumination is interrupted by the intentional breath practice, focus of the eyes (activates the frontal lobe which regulates clear thinking) and mudra (hand position).

If you give it a try, let me know your experience.

How Can You Move Your Body to Heal Your Mind?

“How can you move your body to heal your mind?”  Leading trauma researcher, Bessel Van der Kolk, began with this question at a workshop I attended many years ago.

And it’s a question I’ve experimented with my adult professional life in helping people with anxiety, depression, and trauma.

Are there particular practices that get you out of your head and quickly bring relief and comfort and even an integration of difficult experiences?

The answer is a resounding yes!

In modern psychology, body based practices are only becoming more influential as the research shows their benefits:

EMDR, Somatic Experiencing, Trauma Conscious Yoga Therapy, Bioenergetics…just to name a few.

In JoyBoots practice, I’ve identified 5 ways to move the body, shift your nervous system and have a better ability to tolerate frustration, stress and discomfort:

Bilateral stimulation


Linking breath to movement

Getting grounded

Breathing into physical resistance


What’s  the goal?


To interrupt your automatic ways of thinking and moving.


The interruption creates a space where you have a moment of freedom and neutrality to breathe deeply,

come into the present moment, 

choose your responses

to what life brings,

and be open to possibilities.


When Cancer Dominates Your Life

For the second time over the last 16 years, I recently had the sensation as I was going about my daily life: “I feel like I have my life back.”

The first time was a few years after finishing active treatment for stage 3 breast cancer.  It had taken me several years to feel that I could return to what felt like normalcy, where I had choices on how to focus my attention and could trust in the future.

Again, things have shifted a lot for me personally and it feels like all of a sudden!

Many of you know that my husband of almost 30 years was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer 5 years ago.  After grueling treatments which included months in the hospital during the pandemic (for cancer reasons, not covid), he has reached a place of relative stability.

By stability, I mean we are still living between 3 month scans but he’s on a break from treatment for 9 months now. Gotta love these breaks from treatment where you start to feel your energy come back! And then he surprised me by going back to work after being retired for almost 2 years.

It happened after I had spent a month away over the summer.

My daughter Alima, who is 16 now, and I spent a month in Spain this summer visiting relatives. She attended a 10 day camp and I spent 7 blissful days by myself on the island off Menorca.  Read about how free I felt in Menorca:

This fall, my daughter is in 10th grade at Westlake High School and works part time, while my husband was recruited back to his field and is enjoying himself.

And here I am asking myself a question I have asked before: “How do you connect with your identity after cancer has dominated your life for years?”

I feel a bit distracted as I turn back towards the work I love, with people who seek to make meaning of their lives, increase their vitality, and heal emotional wounds.

I’m grateful to the JoyBoots Inner Circle Group for keeping me devoted to our work together. They have continued meeting for 4 years through hell and high water, since initially meeting in yoga classes and my online course, Healing Well: Reconnect with Your Life after Cancer.

Together we have celebrated the life milestone of one member selling her house and building her dream cottage out in the country with her best friends. We have celebrated times of stability in treatment and good family news.

We have supported each other through recurrences and even through the heartbreaking passing of a beloved member, Jane.  In group, we ask each other: “What do you think Jane would say to that?” And the answer is always something irreverent, brutally honest, and empowering. Her spirit and wisdom live on in us.

In the past few months, I have grieved the losses of a dear friend and a of a dear client, both age 41, both irreplaceable and  leaving behind 2 children and heartbroken families.

I continue to grieve the losses of all these friends.

Sometimes people wonder how I work with people who are facing cancer. I admit, I have to pay attention to my own self care and make sure I’m exercising, and socializing and now…traveling!

But for me, it’s not a burden to meet with JoyBooters, it’s an honor and it’s often super fun.  Being with people who recognize the fragility of life, who love deeply and care so much for their loved ones, makes my life more vivid. I am reminded that time is shorter than we think, and each moment more beautiful.  For me, it’s an honor to have this deep level of connection.  It helps me make meaning of my own life.

Quite frankly, JoyBooters always end up inspiring me.

So, this fall, I have turned much more determinedly towards revamping my signature program which shares my 6 Steps for Emotional Recovery from the Trauma of Cancer. You can listen to this podcast interview I gave about my ideas.

In early 2024, the course will open for people who are newly diagnosed and for cancer survivors who have finished active treatment.  A version for people living with metastatic cancer and a caregiver version will come soon after.

As I work on the course, this question continues to guide me: “How do I connect to my identity after cancer has dominated my life?”  Does this resonate for you?



Shift of Temperature

The heat has been oppressive and sometimes it feels like it’s all you can do just to make it through the day. And if you or your loved one is in treatment for cancer, the stress and fatigue can magnify.

Recently, I listened to a podcast about the comparison trap and how we often measure our success, happiness, or status by seeing how we compare to others. 

Is she still working through treatment and I’m not? Should I be on a vegan diet like certain influencers? Am I living my best life and enjoying every moment like the people I follow on social media who also have cancer?

Comparison isn’t always bad. It can be a tool for growth where you get new ideas, learn new skills, or access resources.


But  it can also create misery, depending on whether you can hold onto your own worthiness no matter what it looks like others are doing and enjoying.

One takeaway for me was how as humans we have always needed one another to survive, but also how painful it can be when you don’t feel like you belong somewhere.  

The amygdala, the primitive brain of fight/flight/freeze in response to perceived threat, gets so activated that you can end up in a state of constant anxiety and stress, even during the phases or moments in life where there is a break from difficulty.

A cancer diagnosis creates a fight/flight/freeze response in everyone it affects, from the patient to loved ones, doctors, or acquaintances.

The fight/flight/freeze response is automatic but you don’t want to get stuck there.

Last weekend, my JoyBoots Inner Circle Group, that has been meeting for years, got together for our first in person retreat.  Talk about having so many activities that helped us relax out of fight/flight, stress, and anxiety!

We enjoyed the first bit of beautiful weather for practicing yoga and meditation outside, swimming, and looking at the stars.  Our view was bucolic country farms and we breathed in the peaceful natural beauty and sounds. Our delicious, healthy meals were beautifully prepared and served.

We shared our feelings and goals, tears and memories. We acknowledged our weariness. We left with greater tenderness for one another and for ourselves.

We felt safe and nurtured and, I believe, a sense of belonging and understanding.

These are the rare antidotes to chronic stress, especially among cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers.

What are the ways you are showing tenderness this week, especially towards yourself? Can you reach out for more support if needed?

How DO You Heal Emotionally after the Trauma of Cancer? The 6 Principles

Over the years, I’ve received many messages from people who heard an interview I did with Dr. Ann Kelly (shared below) at Therapist Uncensored about how hard it is to heal after the trauma of having cancer.  And I explain the six keys to unlocking the healing process.

In September, 2023, new classes, therapy groups, and an online course will begin to help you learn and practice skills based on these principles.

Be sure you are on the JoyBoots community mailing list so you know when they open up!


Cancer sucks, no way around it. If you have it, had it or are supporting someone who does, this episode will be nourishment for you by bringing your mind and body into the healing and recovery process for cancer and trauma is so important.

Fighting cancer is often traumatic physically, emotionally and relationally. Podcast host Dr. Ann Kelley joins therapist and Yoga Instructor Kelly Inselmann (LCSW, C-IAYT,CGP) as she shares her personal journey through cancer recovery and describes her passion and process in supporting others to find hope and healing while in this compromised state.

They discuss how modifying the six principles of emotional recovery into the basic principles of yoga can have an immense impact on well-being and recovery.