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.

Real Healing Requires Community

“The reality is things may never be exactly the same. Be honest with yourself about what you are feeling and find community who allow you to show up just as you are” from the Healing Well Course.

This Wednesday on June 21, 2023 we have the last JoyBoots Yoga class of the summer. It’s been such a pleasure to reconnect with so many old friends and to meet new ones as well.

I will be away June 26-July 24, 2023.  After the summer break, that’s when you can count on our weekly class continuing…

JoyBoots Yoga is unique in that we address, experientially through our practices, some of the more challenging aspects of living with cancer or after treatment.  These are:

  • feeling gripped by fear (of recurrence, physical pain, our own mortality)
  • negative circular thinking that can’t be easily stopped
  • tension and stress you hold in your body
  • anger you pretend not to have (that comes out inadvertently)
  • desire to understand yourself and your precious path forward so you can make meaning of life
  • chance to deeply breathe and strengthen your relaxation response
  • feel more grounded and emotionally balanced

Being able to show up just as you are to find a seat for you at the table helps heal loneliness and isolation.

It’s hard to heal emotionally when you feel alone.

I’m excited to bring a variety of JoyBoots programs forward beginning the end of August.

My online therapeutic course, Healing Well: Reconnect to your Life After Cancer starts in September 2023 and will be available to take at your own pace.

By request, we will also have some In Person Workshop and Meet Up Opportunities beginning in the fall as well.

Please join the JoyBoots Community (free) or email me at for more information or for an individual session.

Stay Cool this Summer!

What Gifts do Your Bring?

In her podcast Incurable Joy, my dear friend Joy Engel asked the question of us all: what unique gifts can you offer a friend?  And who are your “troops” that can be called in?

Take a listen to her story here:

Does it have to be an emergency for you to open up to connection or assistance from a friend, doctor, therapist or loved one?

When I was going through a year of active treatment for breast cancer, as a new mother with an infant, I had to learn to ask for help.  Not because I wanted to-I was much more comfortable being the helper.  I learned how to accept help because I was faced with no other choice.

Receiving help can feel so vulnerable. You may feel that it shows weakness or gives up control.  

But softening your attitude towards help and helpers opens space for deeper connection and realization of our shared humanity.

Check out this yogic exercise that helps you embody the feelings of giving and receiving help:


JOY BOOTS Yoga is BACK for 4 weeks starting May 31, 2023!

It’s been a minute, hasn’t it?  We were still deep in the pandemic doing online classes when I had to take a hiatus to rest and care for my middle school daughter and my husband following his devastating surgery.

Thankfully, my family has reached a moment of stability.  My daughter finished her freshman year in high school and my husband is doing well and on a break from further treatments for the time being.

I’ve been getting lots of inquiries about our JoyBoots Yoga class, groups, and community and I have missed you! What’s happening in your life?

As mine has stabilized, I’ve turned to the question of What Now? How do I want to spend my professional time?

My mind always returns to the JoyBoots Community and the pleasure I get in our connections and in offering groups, classes, and individual sessions.

I started thinking of the ways yoga, meditation, and therapy all help us move from anxious to grounded, calm, and hopeful.  Check out this previous post on 3 Key ELEMENTS everyone should know:

Join me in practicing easily accessible movement, breath work, and meditation to shift your experience of the present moment, stabilize your mind, and open your heart.


With the present moment being all we have,

I felt inspired to offer my JoyBoots Yoga Classes for

4 weeks beginning Wednesday May 31, 2023 – Wednesday June 21.


I hope to be back in person this Fall, but these classes will be ONLINE and DONATION based, pay what you can.

Suggested Donation is $20 per class (Venmo or CashApp). 

To sign up for notices of the class, please email me at with YOGA in the subject line.  I will add you to my weekly list of people to receive the ZOOM LINK. Then you can drop in as you wish (no obligation) and donate only if you attend.

More info about the class here:

The Art of Saying No

So you want to say no, but you don’t know how?

If you are unsure whether you should make others comfortable at your own expense, read last week’s post here

Many people don’t get early training in saying no or asserting yourself. That’s ok-but there’s no time like the present to start!

In the service of your health and emotional wellbeing, you must be willing to take the time and space you need to heal.

And that means being willing to choose to prioritize your peace of mind and energy and to reclaim your time. Giving yourself this permission can be the hardest part for some people.

Does this mean never help or be there for another person? Of course not!

But I will wager most of you are already well trained and adept in the art of putting others first.

Allow me to share a few of the phrases that make it easier for for me to protect my energy:

  • I’m so sorry to interrupt, but I’m going to have to hang up now. Talk to you later. Then hang up!
  • I really want to hear more about this, but I’m going to have to call you back (take a nap, get on to my next activity). Then move along.
  • I wish I could sign up, but I’m still healing/resting/receiving treatment.
  • I wish I could, but I can’t.
  • I’m not in a position to volunteer right now.
  • No thank you.
  • “No.” It can be a complete sentence!
  • I’d love to, but let me think about it. I’m still healing.
  • Do not raise your hand or sign your name if it’s not going to bring you JOY (or save an actual life).
  • Try to avoid giving long explanations that will tempt others to keep asking.

It’ s crucial to get used to the idea that you may not receive as much (or any!) praise and thanks for saying no.  Some people may even push back with annoyance or hurt.

But as you stop overcommitting, you are making space for joy, delight, and healing.  You are preparing for the moment that you can say YES and mean it.

It is your right and responsibility to keep setting limits on activities that drain your energy.

They may not thank you for saying no, but that’s OK!

Embracing Life

Give yourself permission to enjoy life and choose activities that bring you pleasure and joy, even if outside your comfort zone. Cancer Survivors sometimes blame themselves when they feel fatigue or pain after doing activities that are important for their vitality. How can we both accept our vulnerabilities and be willing to embrace life?

Which Side of Your NOSE are YOU Breathing Through? (and why is this important?!)


Before reading further, take a moment to feel connected to your body. Notice the sensations connecting you to a chair, the floor, or bed.

Breathe long and deep a few times, allowing your chest and belly to expand on the inhale like you are filling a balloon with air, and relax with the exhale.

Now bring your fingertips just below your nostrils and breathe out powerfully a few times. Can you discern which side of your nostrils is more open than the other at this moment? Left, right, or equal?

I’m going to share a secret about your body you probably never learned growing up or in school: several times a day, our bodies naturally change which nostril side is more open and easier to breathe through.

Why on earth is this important?!

Many of us, but cancer survivors in particular, struggle with fatigue, difficulty focusing, anxiety and insomnia.

Yogic breathing practices such as alternate nostril breathing can help you bring more prana (life force energy) into your body to manage the side effects of cancer.

At a given moment, the nostril side which is more open reveals the state of your mind and energy. You can even learn to track your mental state and physical energy by observing which side is more open or more blocked.

You have an incredible potential to change your state of mind and body by deliberately switching which nostril side is more open through alternate nostril breathing.

When I first learned about this and started using it in my daily life, I felt like I had a hidden superpower to lower stress, calm emotional reactions, make me more alert, reduce anxiety, and choose to focus.

But which side is which?

TO RELAX-Open the Left Side

When your left side is more open, you are usually calmer, more relaxed, less anxious. (You might also feel tired or sleepy, unfocused or fatigued). When the left side is more open, it is easier to fall asleep.

If you find yourself struggling to sleep, check which side of your nostrils is more open. With insomnia, based on my own experience, I can almost guarantee that the left side is blocked and the right side is open.

To encourage relaxation or sleep, block the right nostril and begin long deep breathing through the left. Continue for 3-11 minutes or until the dominance changes to the left. Lie on your right side to sleep, allowing the left nostril more ease at being open.

Anxiety: If you are feeling anxious during the day, check your nostrils. No doubt the right side is more open and the left side is blocked. Again, block the right side and begin long deep breathing through the left. You can practice anywhere!

Practice along with me to lower anxiety OR get ready to sleep by clicking here:

FIGHT FATIGUE-Open the Right Side

When the right side is open, you are usually more alert and awake with higher energy. (You might also be feeling anxious or restless).

 If you need to stay awake, drive, study, listen to a friend or client, care for a child, block the left nostril with your left thumb and begin breathing long and deep through the right side for 3-11 minutes or until the dominance switches to the right.

To wake up, energize your body, focus, become more alert OR to lift your mood, practice along with me by clicking here:

Believe it or not, there are some yogis who, with practice, can learn to switch the dominance of the nostril without even using the fingers to block one side. Through deep self awareness and attention they are able to open up one side or the other.

 Let me know the results of your observations and experiments!



Learning to Pace Yourself

Life is not under your control, but the rhythm of life is.” Yogi Bhajan

Every morning, though fatigued, you get up and attempt a “normal” schedule. Much of your responsibilities relate to other people-children, spouse, coworkers, friends, elderly parents.

Even though you are depressed, you keep it to yourself so others don’t realize how scared, angry, or sad you are.

You are in pain, but when someone asks how you are doing, you momentarily forget and say “doing well!” Your “doing well” might be a crisis for someone who hasn’t been in the treatment or recovery frying pan.

When I began teaching yoga to cancer survivors 7 years ago, I noticed how deeply the ladies would relax during sivasana (the rest at the end of class). Having discharged tension and expanded their breathing, bodies and minds would melt into a feeling of safety and comfort.

I was surprised, however, and a little worried, when I saw them spring up and immediately drag themselves to a seated position as soon as they heard my voice begin to gently wake them from sivasana.

These ladies moved from 0-100 in a flash, their nervous systems activated as they complied with what they thought I expected which was contrary to the rest and slowness their bodies needed.

To help them slow down their return in future classes, I began to say: “Continuing to relax, bring your awareness back to your breathing,” so that they wouldn’t injure themselves jolting upright.

They needed explicit permission to listen to their bodies and go at their own pace.

Most of the people in my Yoga and Talk® Therapy Groups and classes have been very productive members of society. Health conscious, achievers, they have met the challenge of cancer head on with an inspiring will to overcome. They manage the side effects of treatment alone and often blame themselves for not feeling better quicker, not being more “productive” quicker, even while battling fatigue, pain, grief, lack of sleep, anxiety and depression.

One gift I enjoy offering is a safe place to experiment with going at the pace and rhythm that your body truly desires. They have at least one hour a week where there is NO GOLD STAR for pushing past your own limits and your natural resistance. We practice honoring the resistance from our bodies and breathing in to it.

I encourage students to value rest as much as exerting themselves in an exercise or posture and to “go at a pace that is so in tune with your body that it feels pleasurable.”

This experience of tuning in to your body during class can become a building block to use in other areas of life.  Just like in class, in regular life you can give yourself permission to come to a neutral resting position for a few moments. You can sit or lie down, even if others are dancing around or kicking their legs, or running around busy and “productive.”

Just like in class, the most advanced practice is to go at your own pace and listen to your own body as it heals and rests.

It’s advanced because it’s a challenge on many levels. It requires noticing when you are pushing yourself, complying with the expectations of others, or competing with your neighbor. Once you begin to notice the pushing and the resistance, you can find your own pace.


Spinal Flex with Suspended Breath for Energy

Spinal Flex with Suspended Breath for Energy is the third exercise in the Kriya for Immune Fitness (#3) from Dying into Life.

Inhale through the nose, suspend the breath in.  Press the tongue to the roof of your mouth as you suspend the breath, then begin the spinal flex.  Flex until you can no longer COMFORTABLY hold your breath, then come back to center and exhale through the nose.

Continue at your own pace.  If the flex feels too intense for you today, you could simply practice the breath exercise.


Spinal Flex for Energy (Immune Fitness #1)

Exercise #1 in Kriya for Immune Fitness.  Spinal Flex helps cancer survivors rebuild energy and mental focus.  It warms up the lower back and benefits the immune and lymphatic systems.  It can be used as a daily warm up to stay flexible.

Please modify by going at your own speed, linking the breath to the movement by inhaling as you flex forward, exhaling as you round to the back.  Feel free to sit in a chair with the hands on the thighs to do this exercise.