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: https://yogawithleona.com/retreat/


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

You’ve heard me talk about how much I love this program before (https://yogawithleona.com/2020/07/10/book-review-time-again/ and https://yogawithleona.com/2022/06/13/ready-for-more-mindfulness-in-your-cancer-recovery/). 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 (leonabyt@gmail.com) 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!


Ready for more mindfulness in your cancer recovery?

Guess what?! I have some exciting news to share. I am now a certified facilitator for the Mindfulness Based Cancer Recovery program! Remember how much I love the book on MBCR? Here is a link to my old book report on the topic: https://yogawithleona.com/2020/07/10/book-review-time-again/. You know I have been a big fan of this book and this methodology for years. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that the authors were offering this training course to healthcare professionals who want to lead and share the program. I knew I had to do it!

This program is truly a gold mine of simple strategies to train our bodies and minds to operate from a place of mindfulness, so that we can navigate this crazy cancer experience with more clarity, peace, and ease. And when we operate from this place, we suffer less and find more joy in each day, regardless of what challenges we might be dealing with.

If that sounds good to you, check out this video introduction. I’m going to be spending the next few months working on putting together a series of videos to train you in each step of the program. So let me know if you’d like to be on the list to hear first when that is up and available!