I didn’t come up with the title for this entry…it came through my friend Robin Renee as a response to a question I had asked. The image you are looking at is the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Sunday May 20th, 2012. For many people, the stucture brings to mind the indomitable spirit of Rocky Balboa as his pounding feet made their way up stairs which, if you haven’t traversed them, is tough enough to walk up, let alone ascend by running.
On this day, it was the site of the 10th annual Yoga On The Steps For Living Beyond Breast Cancer, which attracted 1700 yoga practitioners of all ages, from tiny tots to white haired elders, as well as various skill levels and experience to raise money for the organization. It was the heart and brain child of Philly based yoga teacher Jennifer Schelter, her friend Courtney Kapp; a breast cancer thriver and Living Beyond Breast Cancer’s Chief Executive Director Jean Sachs. Indomitable spirits all.
I attended for the first time in 2009 at the invitation of my high school friend Abe Morris, whose wife Andi is a two time breast cancer survivor whose team of supporters in their pink and black t-shirts this year is called ‘Andi’s Girls’ in double entendre’ reference to her body parts as well as the team members although some of her ‘girls’ are really guys, manly men all(: Andi had been on the board of directors of the organization at the time. On that particular day, the wind and rain threatened to cascade a hardy and heart-y band of a few hundred entrepid souls over the stairs and into the Schuykill River near the museum. I wrote about the experience in my book, entitled The Bliss Mistress Guide To Transforming the Ordinary Into the Extraordinary. The chapter is called Mammogram Mambo.
Andi and her brother
Yesterday’s weather could not have been more picture perfect, with broadly beaming sunshine that matched the spirits of the crowd who stretched and sweated, sang and meditated to the music of the divine Yvette Pecoraro. The experience was ushered in by NBC10 journalist Lu Ann Cahn, herself a two decade thriver. She and Jennifer Schelter encouraged all gathered there to strengthen and support each other and to know that no one need go it alone, whether we ourselves were facing a life changing diagnosis or knew someone who had. Throughout the one hour class, we were asked to bring to mind those whose love and support had sustained us and those who had triumphed over cancer and others who had left this plane as a result. My friend Cindy fits into the survivor/thriver category, since not only is she well, but she educates and advocates for prevention and health conscious choices and it was partly for her that I dedicated this practice. Although my mother who died in 2010 did not have cancer, thinking about her passing and the role she still plays in my stretching in ALL aspects of my life, brought tears. It isn’t unusual for me to cry on the mat, but this was particularly poignant.
Lu Ann Cahn
I was moved by the way Jennifer wove concepts into the practice, encouraging us to plant the gardens of our lives, to be heroes to ourselves and those in our lives, as we did ‘hero pose’ invoking the spirit of community and cooperation. We did partner yoga exercises as well, and one in particular had a take home message that struck a chord in me. I worked with a woman named Randy who was parked on her own magic-carpet mat next to me. The asana was ‘boat pose’ and we were asked to grasp each others’ wrists and put our feet together and then lean back with our legs raised at a 45 degree angle. Because our hands and wrists were a bit sweaty and kept slipping apart, we weren’t able to lift our legs. It wasn’t until we let go and spread our arms wide and just our legs do the work themselves, that we were able to fly unencumbered. We were then guided to sit back to back as we offered loving support. I liked the idea that somebody ‘had my back’. The exercise ended by inviting us to bow in honoring, holding our hands in Namaste’ (prayer pose) in front of our hearts as our foreheads touched each others’ and we breathed in gratitude and blessings for each other and all those surrounding us.
I saw many friends from the yoga community and some I missed who I found out later were in the midst, including my friend Bill Tourtual, engaged in ‘wheel’.
One of the most cleverly named teams was called Tutus for Ta-tas (:
Oh and by the way…the question I had asked was “What would Rocky say about all of these folks on his steps?” to which Robin answered: “Yo-ga Adrianne!”
www.yvetteom.com to hear Yvette’s mystically mesmerizing music.