By Sophie Schicker
Yoga became an essential part of my life after developing anxiety and a terrible fear of dying after one of my dear colleagues got killed while I lived and worked in Pakistan in 2014. One year later, I went to India for a month-long Yoga teacher training to focus on dealing with my anxiety and fears. During that time, I found many inspirations in Yoga philosophies, ancient Indian scripts, and in my Yoga and Pranayama (breath awareness) practice.
Yoga taught me how to make it through painful and complicated poses as well as moments in life by breathing calmly and naturally. Through Savasana (final resting pose), I accepted the fact that just like everyone else, I will die one day and that it could happen anywhere at any time. Bakasana (crow pose) taught me the strength to overcome fear and that I can do anything if I believe in myself. Vrksasana (tree pose) had a calming effect on me and made me realize how important it is to be present. Over time my anxiety left and I started appreciating all the tiny beautiful moments of life each day. I started asking the big questions. Am I living the way I want? Am I doing everything to fulfill my dreams? Am I doing something meaningful each day? Am I spending enough time with my beloved ones?
After all, Pakistan lead me towards the path of Yoga. Furthermore, my time over there made me switch my career path, and on a cold rainy night in Islamabad I met my American husband. I am thankful for all of that. Last summer, I pulled up my stakes in my home country of Germany, moved to beautiful Del Ray together with my husband, and became a member of Ease.
Now, I do a job I love, working with the Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC), one of the nine refugee resettlement agencies in the US. We take care of newly arrived refugees from all over the world during their first 90 days and provide long-term intensive case management to especially vulnerable people. Many of them have been forced to leave their homes and lived through years of hardship surviving in refugee camps. Some are victims of torture or lost all of their family members. Their long journey seems to be over when they finally arrive in the US, but over here new challenges are waiting for them.
One of many projects at ECDC is leading a support group for Breast Cancer Survivors. The 14 beautiful women between the age of 30 and 65 meet once a month to share their stories, to go on field trips, and participate in workshops. Most of them are from Ethiopia and have lived in the US a short time. They have not just been through the hardship of being a refugee, but additionally fought cancer for many years of their life. They are some of the strongest and most inspiring women I have ever met. I have the wonderful opportunity to start a Gentle Yoga class specifically for them at the end of this month.
It has been proven that Yoga is helpful for Cancer patients during all stages of treatment and afterwards, as it improves physical symptoms, like pain and fatigue, and reduces stress and anxiety. The Yogic breath, for example, has a positive effect on the immune system and gentle movements release endorphins, our happiness hormones. I hope that regular classes will be beneficial to each and every woman of ECDC’s Cancer Survivor Group and I am very excited to finally share the healing powers of Yoga with some of the people who need it the most.
EASE is collecting gently used yoga mats for Sophie's Cancer Survivor group at the studio. Please feel free to drop off donations with us anytime.