One Breath at a Time: A Cancer Survivor Finds Yoga

fiction by Laura McCorry

"Just Breathe" written over landscape of ocean and sky with clouds at almost sunset.

It was almost time. Christine Tran took a deep breath and let it out slowly, watching her face in the mirror. Her straight, black hair was starting to grow back, just as thick as before chemo, which surprised her. It felt weird that she was no longer visibly marked by cancer; even weirder to realize that people she met now wouldn’t know about that chapter of her life unless she told them.

A month ago, she’d decided to try a yoga class with a friend. It was a community class, led by a new instructor, and maybe that partly explained their experience, but from the moment Christine walked in the door, she had felt nervous about reconnecting with her body.

In the middle of class, when the instructor tried to physically assist her into a deeper twist, Christine wanted to run out of the room. Instead, she told the instructor quietly but firmly that she physically couldn’t twist any deeper. What Christine didn’t explain was that she was thirty five years old and in the past year, she had undergone major abdominal surgery and lost several organs, as well as a football-sized tumor.

After class, her friend had been incensed on her behalf. “Did the instructor ask you about injuries before the start of class?” No, Christine shook her head. Her friend wanted to complain at the front desk but Christine stopped her. She didn’t like confrontations and she really didn’t want to explain her medical history in front of everyone.

The clock read almost 4pm on a Friday. The sun was shining out the window, which Christine knew meant it was warm enough she would only need a sweater, even in January, because she now lived in San Diego. Back in Virginia, it could be bright and sunny and still forty degrees outside. Christine shivered involuntarily. It had been more than six months since her last chemo treatment and she still experienced near-daily side effects. It was very nice to live in a warmer climate.

“Are you ready?” Christine asked her reflection. Her dark eyes stared back at her with determination. She knew not all yoga teachers were the same and she knew, or had an inkling, that yoga was a practice that might really help at this stage of her life.

It was a short drive to Yoga One downtown and she easily found a parking spot, most of the offices were emptying that time of day. The instructor greeted her at the door with a friendly smile, “Hi, I’m Missy!” Christine filled out the new student form and briefly wrote out her relevant limitations, not wanting to write down the actual saga. She wondered if Missy would read the form or if Christine would need to bring it up herself.

Upstairs, Missy approached Christine’s mat and talked clearly but discreetly just to her, “I saw you noted down abdominal surgery, do you have any concerns you’d like to share or questions about our class?”

Christine felt a warm glow of appreciation inside her chest. “I still have a lot of scar tissue, so I won’t go very deep into twists,” she told Missy.

“That’s totally okay,” Missy reassured her. “Don’t do anything that doesn’t feel good in your body. Feel free to modify any poses and if you need a suggestion for something else to do, you can just wave at me and I’ll be happy to come help.”

Already, Christine’s experience at Yoga One surpassed that of every other yoga class she had attended. She felt seen and heard – and she had been welcomed just as she was, with all of her injuries and insecurities. It was exactly what Christine needed in order to relax and truly receive the benefits from the restorative practice.

Before she walked outside to her car, Missy waved at her. Christine could have waved back and kept walking, but something made her pause and walk up to Missy.

“Thank you,” said Christine. “That was exactly what I needed.”

“You’re welcome,” Missy replied warmly. “Isn’t it amazing how yoga can change your whole day? Just connecting with your own breath and body.”

Just hearing the word prompted Christine to take another deep breath. One breath at a time, it was a phrase she had repeated to herself during some of the worst days of her treatment. Funny to think she had been practicing a form of yoga all along.

“Life-changing.” Christine heard herself affirm in reply. “I’ll be back soon,” she promised to Missy, though she knew the words were also a promise to herself.

Laura McCorry

Laura McCorry
Contributing Writer

Yoga and Laura had an on-again-off-again relationship from 2004 until 2009 when they decided to move in together and there’s been no looking back since. Passionate about both yoga and writing, Laura loves to introduce others to the joys and benefits of yoga and healthy living.

Contact: laura(AT)yogaonesandiego(DOT)com

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Meditation: Any Amount is Helpful

guest post by Heather Fenwick

How does your meditation practice look and feel? We’re highlighting stories of meditation in everyday life to help de-mystify this life-changing practice and share simple meditation techniques with those just getting started. Share your experience in the comments or by email,

Photograph of meditation altar with salt lamps, statue, candle, and a note that reads, "you are enough."My meditation practice lately is not as regular as you might think – some days on, some days off. I meditate for up to 20 minutes, or as little as 3 minutes. Even just three minutes, (as Amy Caldwell reminds me, “any amount”) is helpful.

I have a meditation altar, which I love. It’s a place that always invites mindfulness when I see it. Kuan Yin, the goddess of compassion, sits atop the triple India guide book throne. The Dalai Lama, Chinese medicine accoutrements, and Himalayan salt lamps (to neutralize the ions put out by electronics) complete the scene.

Sometimes I just observe the monkey mind in disbelief (when your thoughts are restless and swirling) and I try to cultivate amusement or acceptance, or some combination of both.

Other times, I drop into a breathing practice that I learned from Sarah Clark:

Breathe in and feel the height of the inhale in the upper palate, lifting to the crown.
Exhale, engage a light root lock, feel the seat heavy on the ground.

Breathing is so simple and so profound.
~ Heather

Even just enjoying a conscious  breath can be meditation. Give it a try?

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Happy 8th Anniversary, Yoga One Blog!

UnknownThank you to each and every reader and student of Yoga One, both online and in person, and we especially love it when those two worlds overlap!

We choose our posts, our writers, and our content with care because we believe that our online presence should reflect the same values we share through our San Diego yoga studio – we value integrity, we are committed to sharing knowledge, and we believe helping the individual live a happier and healthier life leads to happier and healthier communities.

Thank YOU (yes, you!) for being a part of the Yoga One Family!

To celebrate, here’s a round-up of our all-time top 8 posts. Enjoy!

8. Confessions of a Yoga Teacher-Military Spouse
7. 5 Yoga Poses for Your 8-to-5
6. The Potency of Backbends and Breath
5. Top Ten Yoga Myths: Part Two
4. The Power of Intention
3. Yoga Playlist from Amy Freeman
2. Top Ten Yoga Myths: Part One

and appropriately, the number 1 post on our site:
1. The Benefits of Yoga

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Meditation: I Meet Myself With Kindness

guest post by Irene Jones

How does your meditation practice look and feel? We’re highlighting stories of meditation in everyday life to help de-mystify this life-changing practice and share simple meditation techniques with those just getting started. Share your experience in the comments or by email,

woman in sundial pose by oceanThese days, my meditation practice is me waking, taking my time, checking in with my emotions, my physical self, and my breath (when I remember, because there is a tendency for the cogs in my brain to start gaining momentum pretty quickly.) I do a little yoga in bed. Nothing strenuous, a few yummy stretches, cat cows and twists and neck attendance to loosen up any stiffness.

I brush my teeth, drink some water, and soon enough I sit comfortably on a cushion facing my window that opens out towards spaciousness and the natural elements. Just before this, I light some incense. I sit nice and tall, roll my shoulders back and lift my heart, starting with a good posture. Of course, it relaxes as I meditate and from time to time, I gently reset the weight in my sitting bones and lift the crown of my head.

Grounding first, I encourage my lower body to be heavy and my pelvic floor to relax. I check in with the Manomaya Kosha, the mind sheath, or how we process our thoughts and emotions. I rest here for a while scanning my entire body head to toe.

I check in with my breath and follow it with my awareness until I get distracted and then I gently bring my awareness back to my breath again.

Most importantly, for me these days, in my meditation practice is opening to my emotional self, so I feel-in. I ask myself, “How am I feeling?” “How am I?” and I patiently wait and open to my experience as it unfolds. I meet myself with kindness and permission for whatever is there and for whatever wants to come to my attention. I hold the sensations of my inner experience in a very sacred and tender embrace. This is my practice.

I rest here for as long as I like. I can then move on to my mental space, check in, honor my mind and all that it does for me and for all its potential. I ask myself, “What would peace feel like in this moment?” I rest in patience for a sense, if it comes to me; if I can cultivate it this morning, if not, no judgement. I rest in the light of my own awareness. Every day is different. 

I especially love when I can get outside early in the morning, when it’s quiet so I can meditate in nature; I’m not sure if there is anything more lovely. Maybe I’ll do some yoga or qigong too. I am blessed to have gained these skills over the years, practicing on and off, making a gradual home for my expanding awareness and my inner peace.

Meditation in itself is not a difficult thing to do – however, to commit to a daily practice, even if just for a few weeks or months can be challenging. Though the rewards are worth it. Meditation can make a huge difference to how we approach ourselves and others; gifting us with opportunities to experience space and patience and self-acceptance while in relationship, it is a fantastic teacher.

Ultimately, we are listening to our own inner teachings and wisdom. I recently heard, that if we can think of it like brushing our teeth, then it will be an easy habit to begin. Five minutes every day is all you need. For me, it depends on how I feel, 20 minutes, sometimes longer, sometimes less, and sometimes I incorporate meditation into my daily activities themselves. Just being present and mindful in each moment is a practice in itself.

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Morning Meditation Spot

by Laura McCorry

Walney Pond, Chantilly, VA

Walney Pond

When I think about meditation, I think about sitting down someplace like this: quiet, peaceful, with yellow butterflies (the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail) flitting from blossom to blossom.

But being Mama to two little ones, I don’t always get to sit down when I meditate.

Sometimes meditation is simply the awareness of my own breath, breathing in, breathing out. Answering a question about turtles. Bringing my focus to the warmth of the sun on my back. Feeling a small fist close in a vise around my index finger as we walk further along the path. Breath in, breath out.

Even if I had arrived to this spot without the children, who both pull me away and bring me back to the present moment, the world interposes itself.

I can hear the rumble of a backhoe across the street, and the rush of traffic on a major road just on the other side of the park. I stay focused on the butterflies, and the dragonflies, but then come the bees, and the mosquitoes, and the ticks.

It’s hard to welcome it all in, to simply brush away the undesirable (and sometimes it’s scary). But this is the practice – of both meditation and life.

It’s not just quiet and butterflies, it’s also noise and chaos and the wide kaleidoscope of living things all sharing the same living earth and life-giving sun. Breath in, breath out. Can you see that it and we are all one?

Laura McCorry

Laura McCorry
Contributing Writer

Yoga and Laura had an on-again-off-again relationship from 2004 until 2009 when they decided to move in together and there’s been no looking back since. Passionate about both yoga and writing, Laura loves to introduce others to the joys and benefits of yoga and healthy living.

Contact: laura(AT)yogaonesandiego(DOT)com

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Yoga One at the San Diego Festival of Yoga

What better way to experience community and inter-connectedness than by practicing yoga alongside hundreds of other wonderful humans at Waterfront Park in downtown San Diego? We had an absolute blast and we can’t wait to participate again next year!

Yoga One at the Festival of Yoga

Festival of Yoga, downtown San Diego

Michael and Amy Caldwell

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Two Yoga Poems by Amy Caldwell


Once again
I’ve confused rigidity for strength,
domination for embodiment.

I’ve missed opportunities for appreciation
for acceptance
for love.

We know in our minds.
We feel in our hearts.

And yet we forget.
We get lost,
Amnesia of the spirit.

What if the only purpose of life
is to communicate love?
Through our breath
Through our body
Through our thoughts
Through our words
Through our actions
Through our relationships
Through our life
Through our being

Begin again.
Every day.
Every moment.
Every breath.
A chance to wake up.



How do they form?
How do they shape and filter
the way we view ourselves,
each other, the world?

We look to some beliefs
to help guide positive thought and action,
such as Ahimsa (non-violence),
or a vision of sameness,
to see ourselves in others,
or to (radically) love ourselves…

But perhaps any belief
comes with a small weight,
what we should be or do.

Maybe the next step
is to let go of the belief.

To realize that we already are the same.
We already are love.
We always have been.
We don’t have to think it,
or believe it,
we can just be it.

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Yoga One in 3 Words

We asked you, our students, to describe Yoga One using just 3 words and your lists blew us away! We are so proud and humbled, encouraged and challenged, and overall feeling the LOVE!

Thank YOU for making Yoga One a welcoming space for all to enjoy the benefits of yoga and community. Namaste!

Yoga One word cloud

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Keep OM Trucking: Featuring Missy DiDonato

Do you take your yoga with you when you travel? 

Our Yoga One family has spread to all corners of the globe and we’re excited to share some of their adventures.

Missy is Yoga One’s OM (Office Manager). She’s the big smile and warm spirit that greets you from the studio’s office nook. Missy is the hub that connects all the parts. Here she is delivering the opening remarks for the Festival of Yoga, with the primary class being led by Yoga One’s own Amy Caldwell. Not long after Missy inspired the crowd of yogis, she dropped the mic (figuratively not literally). But either way she rocks! \m/

The next Festival of Yoga is scheduled for June 23rd, 2019 at the Waterfront Park. Click here to register for this FREE event!

No matter where you go, you can Keep OM Trucking with Yoga One! Visit Yoga One at 1150 7th Avenue to get your own hat and while you’re there, join us for class. 

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Have You Ever Considered Yoga?

fiction by Laura McCorry

Carl sat on the crinkly paper of an examining table waiting for his doctor. He kicked his feet and glanced around for a magazine. As a grown man, he felt ridiculous when his feet didn’t touch the floor. Carl was there for his annual check up, something his wife (and his health insurance) insisted on since he turned fifty.

He took a deep breath and let it out, slow and controlled. The practiced measure of that breath and the peace that followed marked a groundswell of change in Carl’s life from the year before.

A year ago, Carl had sat in the exact same spot, not knowing what to expect, feeling irritated that he had to take time out of his busy work day to be there.

A year ago, Carl had expected to hear that everything was fine, that he was a marvel of health despite the fact that he rarely exercised and regularly indulged in rich food and drink.

A year ago, Carl’s doctor told him that unless he made significant changes, he would need to take daily medication and adjust his expectations for his future quality of life.

Looking back, Carl could see the signs. But at the time, it was too easy to justify the way he was feeling. His back hurt because he wasn’t twenty years old anymore. Lots of people complained of indigestion. He carried some weight around his middle, but so did nearly all of his colleagues the same age as him. If it was normal, it couldn’t be that bad, he reasoned.

Despite telling himself it was a normal part of aging, Carl didn’t like the way he looked in the mirror. And every time he lay down at night, the aching muscles in his back would start to relax a bit which ironically made them ache even more. Laying next to his sleeping wife, he knew deep down that there had to be something more he could do.

It was that routine visit to the doctor that opened his eyes.

“What do you do to move your body?” Dr. Beamer asked, looking Carl in the eye over the rim of his glasses.

“I throw a tennis ball for the dog in the backyard,” Carl joked to avoid the question. He moved through his life with a minimum of movement, from his bed to the breakfast table. From his car to his desk. From the dinner table to his recliner. From his recliner to his bed.

“What have you tried before?” the doctor’s gaze hadn’t flinched, bless him.

“I used to play basketball with some buddies,” Carl offered.

Dr. Beamer nodded his head. “I’m not saying don’t try it, but go easy. Basketball at your age, after a long hiatus, can be hard on the knees.”

And then he said the fateful words Carl had never expected to hear:

“Have you ever considered doing yoga?”

No, Carl had never considered yoga. In his mind, yoga was something his wife did. But that evening, when Carl told his wife about the doctor’s suggestion, she didn’t tease him or gloat. Instead, she simply messaged him the online schedule for Yoga One, the studio in Downtown San Diego where she’d been practicing for the past five years.

Carl looked at the schedule and thought about his week. Fridays were pretty easy, he could often take a half day or work from home. He scanned the list of classes and instructors and saw one that popped out at him: Level 1 and 2 Flow with Michael Caldwell.

He borrowed his wife’s yoga mat and changed at work into a t-shirt and a pair of lounge pants. Carl felt nervous. He didn’t want to be noticed as new.

Even though he arrived early, there were still quite a few people already picking out spots in the bright upstairs studio. At the front of the room, a tall man in a t-shirt and comfortable pants talked and laughed with the regulars.

“Hi, I’m Michael,” the man introduced himself. He asked if Carl had any injuries or questions and they chatted briefly about the Padres. Carl didn’t know exactly what he had expected from a yoga teacher, but he felt reassured and intrigued.

The yoga class was harder than Carl had expected. Somewhere along the way, he’d gotten the idea that yoga was mostly sitting on the floor stretching and lying down relaxing. Not in this class! These people were moving and sweating and working hard.

There was a lot that Carl couldn’t do, but instead of discouraging him, he only wanted to try harder. Every time Michael guided the class into a difficult pose, he acknowledged it and encouraged each student to stay and breathe or back off and rest. By the end of the class, Carl was beginning to feel as though the yoga was more about what was going on in his own body instead of what the other bodies in the room were capable of doing.

It only took one class and Carl was hooked. At first he was doing yoga at his wife’s studio for his health. Before long though, Carl knew he was practicing yoga for himself. He loved the way it challenged both his strength and his stillness. It was no longer his wife’s studio, Yoga One had become like a second home, a place where they both found friends and community.

There was a knock on the door and the doctor walked into the examining room.

“Hi there, Carl,” Dr. Beamer looked up from a clipboard and raised his eyebrows as he smiled at Carl. “You’re looking good!”

“I feel good,” Carl replied with a proud smile.

“I bet,” said the doctor. “Your chart says you’ve lost some weight and, this I can’t believe, you’re an inch taller than last year. Whatever you’re doing, keep doing it.”

They discussed how to manage some of the health problems Carl was still experiencing but he was relieved to hear that the focus had shifted from management to prevention. Yoga hadn’t cured everything that was wrong, but it had pushed Carl into a long-lost relationship with his body. Now it didn’t matter so much what he looked like, it mattered how he felt — and Carl felt better than ever.

Laura McCorry

Laura McCorry
Contributing Writer

Yoga and Laura had an on-again-off-again relationship from 2004 until 2009 when they decided to move in together and there’s been no looking back since. Passionate about both yoga and writing, Laura loves to introduce others to the joys and benefits of yoga and healthy living.

Contact: laura(AT)yogaonesandiego(DOT)com

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