Find your glimmers to bring light to cancer recovery

Have you heard of “glimmers”? This is a term I just learned a few weeks ago, and have been reading about and thinking about ever since. As I understand it, the term was coined by Deb Dana, LCSW, a clinician, teacher, and expert in complex trauma. It comes from the Polyvagal Theory, as originally described by Dr Stephen Porges. I’ll get back to that in a minute.

Everyone knows the term “triggers”, and it has become a bit of a buzzword in recent years, and honestly I think is a bit overused, which takes away some from its true meaning in psychology. Triggers are events, experiences, or other stimuli that initiate a traumatic memory or response in the body or mind, via the nervous system. So triggers literally trigger our nervous system to fly into fight or flight mode (or even freeze/fawn, which I’ll mention later) in an attempt to protect us from some subconscious/imagined trauma or threat. Often, however, there is no real threat in the present, only the memory of some past threat. But our bodies and our minds can’t tell the difference, and respond with the same cascade of stress hormones and other reactions as it would if we were in the middle of that same threat all over again. Think, for example, of feeling a sensation of nausea just walking into and smelling the oncology clinic, even though you’ve been finished with chemo for months. Or feeling the sensation of fear or dread as you wait for results from follow up testing, just like you were taken back to your original diagnosis all over again. Or the sensation of tension arise in your jaw or shoulders or the pit of your stomach just seeing some emotionally abusive co-worker or family member come up on you caller ID. We’ve all felt it. And those who have been through a truly traumatic experience tend to feel these even more strongly. Sometimes they can be literally crippling. And as I’ve mentioned, having cancer is officially considered a traumatic experience by the medical/psychiatric community. It may not be the same as traumas like childhood abuse, natural disaster, or violent assault, but it is a trauma nonetheless, and can result in similar types of responses in the body.

The good news is that there are also stimuli that can initiate a response from the balancing side, the rest and digest, or social connection, part of our nervous system. These are the Glimmers. So these are sortof the opposite of triggers. These are experiences, events, or other stimuli that “trigger”-but in a good way- our nervous system to respond with a cascade of the feel good chemicals and reactions, that leave us feeling safe, connected, at ease, relaxed, comforted, connected, and nourished. Think of your glimmers, be they internal or external. They could be things like the warm sun on your skin, the comforting voice of a loved one, the sound of birds chirping in the morning, the feeling of your own breath gently rising and falling, the smell of warm cookies just out of the oven, the feeling of freedom when you float in the ocean, your favorite old music, or the feeling of connection you have with your best friend or your yoga community. These stimuli cue safety and ease, opening us up to experience peace and joy in our daily lives. And the really great news is, they are all around us, if we just learn to tune them in.

Let’s come back to Polyvagal theory just for a moment. It isn’t super important to understand this background, but it is interesting and may help shed some clarity on how to identify more glimmers. It highlights the safety and community aspect of this story, which is particularly important for trauma survivors. The traditional understanding of the autonomic nervous system, and the way I generally think about it, divides the system into 2 parts: the sympathetic, or “fight or flight”, and the parasympathetic, or “rest and digest”. These 2 sides of the nervous system act in concert to keep us balanced, with the sympathetic becoming activated in response to a stressor preparing our bodies to respond as needed, and then the parasympathetic engaging once the threat/stressor is neutralized to bring us back to balance and rest. Polyvagal theory posits that the parasympathetic side of the system can be further divided into 2 parts, the ventral vagal and the dorsal vagal branches. The ventral vagal branch is activated when we feel safety and social engagement, along with that traditional idea of rest and digest. So we are relaxed and at ease, but also feel safe and connected, and are able to be active and engaged without feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Some might call this the flow state. Activation of the dorsal vagal branch, on the other hand, which is considered a more primitive part of the system, results in the extreme opposite end of rest and digest, in which we suffer depression or dissociation, complete shutdown or immobilization, perhaps like a possum playing dead. This state is sometimes called freeze or fawn. So in Polyvagal theory, we can operate and move through these 3 main states: 1. Ventral vagal, our ideal state of joyful engagement, 2. the traditional fight or flight where we are stressed, anxious, irritated or angry, or 3. the dorsal vagal, where we completely collapse and can’t function adequately. Phew, that was more than a moment! 😉 I explain this theory because I think that the safety and social connection aspect of Polyvagal theory is an important key in recovering from traumatic experiences and in learning to heal our nervous systems and return to wellness and joyful living.

That brings me to the next piece of good news! Neuroplasticity is the phenomenon of the human brain and nervous system adapting and changing, both functionally and structurally, in response to our experiences and our actions. In short, sortof like a muscle, neurons that get used frequently develop stronger connections and become even more active. Sadly, this can work against us in trauma response, in that these triggered emotions and reactions can become stronger the longer they continue to be stimulated. HOWEVER, the glimmers can too! Soooo, the point of all of this is that focusing on our glimmers, on moments and memories and experiences that make us feel safe and joyful, at ease and connected, can actually help our nervous systems heal from our traumas. These glimmers cue safety and remind our nervous systems that things are ok now, that the threat is in the past, that it is ok to let down our guard, to enjoy that sunset, or that quiet cup of tea. These glimmers can help us build resilience so that when we are triggered and fall into fear or anxiety, we have some tools to more quickly pull ourselves back out. If we know what our glimmers are, we know what to do. We do some relaxing breathing, or listen to our favorite old music, or maybe we make a few of those cookies, get out in nature, or go for a swim. We call up a loved one and are soothed by the glimmer of their voice, or we go to a yoga class or a support group and feel at ease in the company of our friends. And every time we focus on a glimmer, we strengthen that part of our nervous system that feels safe and at ease. And we train our brains to see and feel the hundreds of glimmers that are available to us in every day.

Glimmer on, my beautiful friends.

Allowing each moment in breast cancer recovery

Don’t get me wrong, I love growth, and working on becoming a healthier, happier, more balanced human. BUT, I also think one of the most important things we can learn to do is just to stop. To let go of the need to always be grinding, and striving, and pushing for better, because that mindset carries with it the undertone that what we are in this moment is not good enough.
🪷 I think it is just as important to allow, to accept, and to love ourselves exactly as we are in this moment. To drop the unnecessary turmoil and tension that come with thinking we should be some other way, or that the next moment (or day, or week, or year) will be better than this one. And this is true, even -and maybe especially- in those moments when we are a hot freakin mess.
🪷 This is one of the gifts of mindfulness. To get comfortable being at ease, no matter what the moment brings. To give ourselves grace, to allow and accept the “full catastrophe” (as JKZ calls it in the title of his famous book) that is human existence. It’s messy, and crazy, and challenging… and beautiful. We just need to allow ourselves to stop and feel it all. 💕
🪷Wishing you all a nourishing and joyous weekend!

Yoga with Leona’s Yoga for Breast Cancer Retreat 2023 in Puerto Vallarta was beyond incredible!

There were so many beautiful moments that I can’t even begin to capture the magic in one post. But I will try to share a few snippets here to give you an idea. I hope you will be interested in joining us for the next one! Wanna practice yoga with me each morning in this gorgeous little spot overlooking the majestic Pacific ocean?

We practiced tuning in to our own bodies, connecting to our breath, and being truly present with whatever each moment brings with gentleness and gratitude for where we are today in our healing journeys.

We got to take in this gorgeous scenery while connecting over amazing meals, relaxing poolside, or chatting under the palapas on the beach. Many deep conversations were had as we supported each other, learned, and grew together.

We also had plenty of fun and laughs. We got out on the bay for a gorgeous catamaran tour, felt the breeze in our hair, the sun on our skin, and the sea all around us.

We had so many delicious meals together, and took our time to bask in the beauty of the sunsets.

I am beyond grateful for all of the beautiful humans that came together to make this retreat truly magical. Thank you all for sharing your hearts and your lights, for your kindness and presence in supporting one another, and for giving yourselves this beautiful gift of yoga. Keep practicing!

Namaste (I honor the place in you in which the entire universe dwells. I honor the place in you, which is of love, of light, of peace, and of truth. When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are ONE.)

Lotus power again

Why do you practice yoga? 💕🧘🏽‍♀️💕 Me? How much time do you have? Lol. 😉

🪷 The biggest reason, though, is for the resilience it builds, in body and mind. For the way it trains me to be able to sit with some discomfort, in true acceptance of whatever each moment brings. And to not feel the need to run away, or disconnect, or deny the truth of the experience. To be able to truly be present, and at ease, in every moment, no matter how difficult.

🪷 Just like the lotus flower, that must grow through dark, muddy waters, gaining nourishment and strength along the way to blooming into its most beautiful expression, we too, are sure to encounter all sort of challenges, pains, and heartaches along our path. But if we can build resilience and remain calm and clear even in our darkest moments, a quiet confidence will arise, reassuring us that we are still growing, no matter how hard it may be to see it in that moment. And eventually the light will shine through, again illuminating our path. ✨

🪷 I’m forever grateful for the gift of this practice, and the way it has impacted my life. I’m going to keep practicing.

#yogaforbreastcancer #mindfulness #lotusflower #resilientAF

Wanna retreat with us??

OK yogis, our April 2023 yoga for breast cancer recovery retreat in Puerto Vallarta is coming up. I am over the moon excited about sharing this special time in this incredible venue. It is going to be epic! We have a really amazing group of beautiful thrivers already registered, and I am working on finalizing plans for all of the yoga, teaching, and adventures. I wanted to update you on some important upcoming dates and information:

January 6, 2023: This is the cut-off date for registration, and I have to have the final room list to the resort at that time! This is less than 5 weeks away, so let me know what questions I can answer to be sure you get registered in time.

February 23, 2023: The final payment of the full balance of your room will be due by this date, so plan accordingly. Some are making smaller payments over time to chip away at it, and I’m happy to accommodate this if you like.

Finally, now is a good time to check your passport and make sure it does not need to be renewed. Also a good time to start looking at flights. If you decide you want to add on extra days before or after the retreat, the resort is offering a special price for 3 days before and 3 days after, so let me know if you want more information about extending your trip!

Please let me know if I can answer any questions. Can’t wait to see you in paradise!

Flying in awareness

While flying back home after a recent trip and looking out the window of the airplane, I saw these gorgeous clouds floating over the image of the earth below, and felt this interesting separation. Up here in the sky, I felt a quiet stillness, protected by that thin lacelike layer of clouds, from the busy bustle of the earth below. Not that I couldn’t see the surface of the earth, with its little towns and highways, and all of the usual activity going on there. But it felt like those delicate and loosely dispersed clouds provided a subtle but real separation. And that got me thinking it was an interesting representation of the buffer that meditation provides us from the busyness of our thinking minds. I often use the image of sinking below the surface of the ocean, dropping below the choppy waves to find the stillness beneath. This is just kindof the opposite imagery; rising above the clouds to escape the busyness below. In either analogy, you get the idea. We can learn to be the calm, still, peaceful awareness behind the activity. And learning to inhabit that place can help us feel so much better when the big storms of life arise.

Mindfulness is the key to learning to take this step back, to shift our awareness, and to be able to calmly observe our thoughts and emotions rather than being swept away by them. And mindfulness comes in so many flavors; from mindful movement to breath or body awareness, from sitting meditation to walking meditation, and from formal to informal mindfulness practices, there is surely something that can work for everybody.

It has been said that “meditation isn’t about trying to change what is; it is about changing our relationship to what is”. And I think this fits perfectly with these images of either rising above or dropping below the fluctuations of the mind. There’s no need to stop the flow of thoughts or emotions, or try to control the world around us, if we can just, instead, shift the way we perceive those things in a way that brings us more presence, more peace, and more contentment.

By practicing focused non-judgemental awareness, even if it is just for a few minutes every day, we train our minds to be able to do this. We train our minds to be able to drop below the surface of the waves…. or to rise above the surface of the clouds, to find that place of stillness and clarity. That panoramic perspective, or that bird’s eye view, so to speak. So each time you spend 5 or 10 minutes practicing gently bringing your awareness back to your breath, or you practice really being mindful of your body’s movements in yoga, or you practice focusing on loving kindness, you strengthen that ability. So give it a try! And if you are a person (like me) who says “I can’t do sitting meditation, I’m just too restless or impatient”, then start with moving meditation. Begin to learn to focus on your breath and your body in moving meditation, and over some time, the restlessness will settle and sitting meditation will become more approachable. And remember, there is no right or wrong way to practice. Just practice!

Why not start now? Set your timer for 5 minutes, close your eyes, and just focus on the sensation of your breath moving in and out. You can focus on the belly or the chest rising and falling, or the air moving in and out at your nostrils, wherever the sensation of the breath is most vivid for you. Each time your mind wanders (and it will), gently bring it back to the breath. Even if you have to bring it back 5,000 times, just keep at it, gently and patiently coming back to the breath, without making it a problem or condemning yourself in some way for the lapse in attention. Just keep practicing noticing what is happening, and being gentle and loving with yourself. Each time you come back, you’ve strengthened your mind a little more. When the timer dings, you are done. Simple as that! Before you know it, not only will you find the meditation gets easier for you, but you may find that you start to crave the little respite, the quiet restful stillness. And then eventually you’ll find yourself flying free, calm, and unaffected by whatever storms or madness might be going on below.


Happy Pinktober?

Well today is the first day of Pinktober, or breast cancer awareness month. And it can have many breast cancer survivors feeling a little mixed up. On the one hand, we all agree that awareness is important and if all the pink helps remind or encourage just one woman to get a mammogram that finds an early stage breast cancer and saves her life, then that is awesome! And I think that it probably does that. We appreciate the increased awareness and the plug for more research and improvement in outcomes for this too-common disease, which despite vast improvements still causes a lot of suffering and too many lost lives. On the other hand, it can feel a little over-commercialized (what doesn’t these days, really?), and like a bit of a marketing scheme to sell pink-colored everything. I do kindof love it when all the NFL guys are in their pink-accented uniforms though, I have to admit, ;). I know many women, too, suspect that much of the money that is supposed to go toward breast cancer research or to help real actual breast cancer patients might not make it to its intended recipients. (If you really want to dig into where the money goes, you can look up many of these non-profits on a website called Guidestar. It is pretty interesting). And for some of us, every pink food label and pink tv commercial just forces us to think about a really traumatic time in our lives that we’d rather not think about all day and night. I totally understand all of the different sides of this complicated quagmire.

I guess my main thought on the subject is that it is ok, whatever it is that you feel in response to this coming sea of pink. If you love it, and you feel seen and supported, that is great. Pink it up! If you dislike it and it kindof makes you sick, that is totally ok too. We all respond to the ups and downs of this crazy cancer journey differently, and no one response is right or wrong. I invite you just to be aware of how you feel (every month, but especially this one), and be loving and kind with yourself and others. Most people have good intentions, even if they are ill-informed or aren’t in line with our own feelings on the subject. Just being aware of it when we are feeling a little triggered or overwhelmed by the pink-washing is the beginning of learning not to let it get to us. We have enough to worry about, right? Why let this add to the list? Consider it another opportunity to practice our mindfulness and our equanimity. An opportunity to practice stopping, noticing whatever reaction we are having, taking a few deep breaths, and letting it go or letting it be, as you wish.

Big big love to you all, this month and every month!


This is how we do it…

Can you even believe how gorgeous this space is? Well this is one of the spaces we will use for yoga practice at the 2023 Yoga for Breast Cancer Retreat in Puerto Vallarta! We’ll just move those loungers out of the way, replace them with our yoga mats, and tada! Daily yoga practice designed specifically for breast cancer survivors, with the glorious Pacific ocean as a backdrop. You might even want to take a quick dip in the ocean after practice to cool off before we head to breakfast! What better way is there to nourish your body and mind, alongside like minded thrivers who are certain to become new friends?! AND, see those pretty little lanterns hanging from that gorgeous shade tree? They light up to make the perfect spot for evening yoga as well. It is going to be truly magical! Are you coming?? Please contact me if you are interested in coming, but need a roommate. And remember, you can bring your partner or support person to join in all of the activities if you like. We are in this together, right? So it is important that they learn how yoga and mindfulness can help us in recovery too!

Click here to access all of the information:


Join us for Mindfulness Based Cancer Recovery- live on zoom!

You’ve heard me talk about how much I love this program before ( and And you may recall that I recently became a certified facilitator for MBCR. As you can read in my last blog on the topic, I was originally planning on offering this program in a hybrid format, where much of the educational material would be pre-recorded. However, I then found out that my amazing friend and colleague Ginny Stasinski had also been certified to facilitate and we got to talking. 😉 Ginny is a former nurse turned health and wellness coach, a two time cancer thriver, an incredible athlete/marathoner, a dedicated mindfulness practioner, and a very cool human. We have so much in common, and realized that our shared experience and expertise could combine perfectly to deliver this truly transformative practice to others looking to live more mindfully in their own cancer journeys. We decided that we should team up and offer the full program in the traditional format, where all of the education and practice is delivered live in a group setting so that the participants support and learn from one another as they begin to practice mindfulness and incorporate the practices into their lives. This group format allows everyone to share their experiences, challenges, and insights on what practices worked well, what was hard or easy, how they worked around any obstacles and figured out the best practices for them.

For some brief logistics, MBCR is a 9 week course, which includes weekly zoom meetings (about 90 minutes or so in length), in which we learn a series of different mindfulness practices (including inquiry as well as meditations and very gentle yoga style movements-accessible to anyone), we practice them together, we discuss challenges and experiences, and then we recommend “homework” for you to practice on your own throughout the week.

Shoot me an email ( if you are interested in more info or you want to sign up. The cost of the program gets you all 9 zoom sessions, all of the course materials and practice recordings, as well as a FREE trial membership at Yoga with Leona in case you want to check out other yoga practices too. Check the most recent program announcement for pricing, and remember, we do offer a sliding scale for anyone who wants to participate but is not able to pay the full price. Look forward to getting mindful with you!


Yoga for Breast Cancer Retreat 2023 is on!!

For any of you who aren’t on Facebook and may not have heard, Yoga with Leona’s 2023 Yoga for breast cancer retreat is officially scheduled! And I am over the moon! So mark your calendars for April 6-11 2023, in glorious Puerto Vallarta Mexico. We will spend 5 incredible nights in a luxury all-inclusive resort right on the beach. This place is beyond amazing. All ocean view rooms, 5 pools, unlimited food and drink, 5 restaurants, 5 bars, oceanfront dining, private beach, and us – a community of like-minded thrivers who understand the challenges of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, and lovingly support and encourage one another in our healing and our growth! We’ll have twice daily yoga practice (all-levels, no experience necessary), educational sessions on yoga and mindfulness specifically for breast cancer survivors, 2 fun outings to discover and explore this tropical paradise, and plenty of time to just relax, unwind, and connect with each other and with nature.

Click here for all of the details. I expect this retreat to fill up, so register soon to secure your spot! Send me an email with any questions or to get that registration finalized ( See you in paradise.

Namaste 🙏🏼