Lisa Ponczek is one of those people that is always upbeat. She doesn’t spend a lot of time complaining. Her energy is infectious. She’d been practicing yoga for over a decade, but it never really grabbed her. She thought of it as just a workout and would often run off to do more cardio after class.
Then, in September 2012 she went to the doctor for a routine checkup. She had no symptoms, but a nagging feeling that something was wrong. She was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL).
“For a month, I couldn’t function. I couldn’t leave the house. I was convinced I was going to die,” says Lisa.
She went to a different doctor, a holistic oncologist, and who told her, “Go to yoga.” Specifically he said, “Go to kundalini yoga.” She went, and found a sense of peace there.
“That day, after that initial kundalini class, it was the first time I wasn’t crying all day. I felt more centered. So I kept going.”
Before her diagnosis, Lisa was becoming an empty nester. She was a speech pathologist, but primarily she was a mom.
“I was losing my purpose. I almost feel like the diagnosis was God saying this is what you are going to do, and turning me in a different direction. Little by little, I took more and more yoga classes and fell in love with it because I was no longer there for just the physical. I was there for so much more.”
She soon would sign up for her 200 hour teacher training, followed by another 200 hour training at Yoga Journey.
“I teach ten classes a week now and get on the mat myself at least 3 x per week and I couldn’t live without it.”
Lisa continues to get treated for CLL.
“I use yoga and meditation to get through the treatments. Whether it helps your prognosis, you can’t really say but it helps your attitude and helps you handle whatever is going on in life. The yoga definitely helps me accept that and gives me strength.”
Lisa is currently in a 500 hour yoga teacher training at Yoga Journey and is taking part in the Yoga 4 Cancer training program as well.
“I hope to go into cancer support groups. I’d like to work with not just patients, but their families as well. It is so stressful for families and caregivers.”
She says teaching yoga is a blessing for her,
“When I teach I feel like I’ve been healed. I love teaching so much. Whether it’s two students in a room, or 30. It feels so good to be giving. I think that was one of my fears. I always nurtured my family, my children, but they were leaving. Now I can nurture myself by nurturing others. I find it so rewarding. I still have to take time to just get on my own mat and take care of myself as well. I’m working on finding the balance. I feel pretty confident I’ll get through this.”
Of the yoga community,
“The yoga community has been so supportive. The calls. The texts. The bringing over food. The constant checking on me. I’ve been in this community for a relatively short time and it’s really incredible how loving and caring they are. I truly feel part of something that is so positive and nurturing and I hadn’t had that in so long. It creates an energy with all love. That’s been the greatest lesson and I don’t think I’d have found that without my diagnosis and I truly have to be grateful for that.”
Lisa says most of all, yoga has helped her let go of fear and attachment to outcomes.
“Practicing yoga doesn’t guarantee an outcome that you’ll survive and be okay. Nothing can guarantee that. Hopefully that is the case for most, and yoga helps you deal with the treatment, but in case your treatments don’t work, and you don’t survive, the yoga helps you to accept even that. You never know, but the yoga helps you let go and not hold on to an outcome. So hopefully you don’t leave too early, but the yoga helps with acceptance of whatever happens.”
Lisa teaches Wednesdays at 7AM, and Thursdays at 12:30, both are all-levels Vinyasa classes.
*Photo credit Andrea Blakesberg, and .George Ponczek.