by Sandra Radja
I know Jeanette and I know she is fair-dinkum (authentic) as we say in Aussie parlance. I know she has her home decked out in sacred Aboriginal art and is dedicated to her personal practise and to her clients, whom she guides to their well being in Sacramento, California. So when I heard the news, I was like "huh? no way!". Of course there are no guarantees in this life and our immediate response is sadness. But it takes a yogi of immeasurable strength to see beyond the body. This interview floored me. Her realness hit that deep craving I have as a truth seeker. I hope you enjoy.
1. What is your history in Yoga and Ayurveda? Why did you go seeking it?
My introduction to yoga began in the late 60’s or early 70‘s with Swami Saraswati in Australia. This beautiful Indian woman became our TV guru as we watched transfixed by her voice and her postures. My mother took up yoga and throughout our house you would find deities like Ganesha, Shiva & Buddha. Our home was, and mine still is, a celebration of philosophies and religions from all over the world.
It wasn't until the late 90’s that my passion for yoga was reignited when l saw a woman practicing asana under a tree and reawakened my path. I sat once again transfixed by her movements and something inside me awakened. Laying there watching her stirred my mind and my body and as she finally got into her headstand l felt compelled to ask her what she was doing. She told me she was doing yoga. l went directly home and found a yoga teacher (Sumita Vasudeva) who took me through a Sivananda practice. The moment l got into a shoulder stand l felt like l had come home. Shortly there after (2002) l went to the Sivananda Ashram in Bahamas and became a teacher. I’ve practiced, taught & studied ever since.
Later that year l was diagnosed with a pituitary Adenoma which required medication. lt was then that my Ayurvedic journey began. I chose Ayurvedic herbs & lifestyle changes that l have continued ever since.
2. What were you diagnosed with recently?
Last June l was diagnosed with breast cancer; Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. l felt a lump in my breast. I had always wondered what they meant by a ‘pea’ shaped lump and l finally found out.
A biopsy later, then a lumpectomy to remove it revealed that it was stage 1 cancer with no lymph node involvement.
Breast cancer has no prejudice. l exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, practice yoga and Ayurveda, meditate, hike, paddle board, bike, walk to the river almost daily. I live a generally healthy life. Or so l thought.
We get what the universe wants us to have so that we can help others along the way. Disease is an opportunity to find something new within our self and the journey of our spirit. It helps one understand spiritual life in new and liberating way.
At the end of every class l finish with the quote ‘Whether it’s clear to us or not, the world is unfolding exactly the way it’s supposed too and that we are where we are because that’s where we’re supposed to be’.....
l believe this. Life is about being with what’s here, no matter how challenging or difficult. No amount of refusal changes that fact. This is a part of being present, it’s about having faith. Yoga and Ayurveda are my foundations and they have made my journey through breast cancer authentic and ruthlessly honest uncovering hidden parts of my emotional self.
3. How did this rock your foundations and sense of faith?
The year before the diagnosis was one of the most emotionally stressful times of my life. A family member was diagnosed with late stage cancer and l flew home to help where l could. Death has a way of reshaping our relationships both with ourselves and those around us. It grants us permission to take journeys that we may never had planned. Well, that happened to me.
I had the good fortune of spending 6 months with an Aboriginal family/community who showed me the bush and shared stories of love and tremendous hardships. A deep love & respect for the land that can only be described as sacred. lt was like they opened a door that revealed the true nature of things. l could see & feel with different senses.
Nothing could have prepared me for the dichotomy of love & sadness that was shared. They opened my mind to a depth of nature that had been foreign to me in spite of my dedicated spiritual practice as a yogi. My constant words were “l’ve found heaven on earth”.
l left with a knowledge of unconditional love that l’d never experienced before, from them, the river and from my homeland, their land. They said “I am the River, I am the trees, I am the birds, l am this Land”. They gave me a constellation “ Orion”. They gave me a name: Jagar the Wargin.
Together we had talked about creating a wellness center where people that were stressed out & needed to get back to nature, could retreat and regroup. An Ayurvedic Wellness retreat that included bush walking, Aboriginal art & the Ayurvedic approach.
I found a place to see clients when l returned in November (which was the plan) and begin my new cofounded journey.
When you asked about the diagnosis rocking my foundation this is what it rocked... l realized the energy that l needed to heal was required inside my body and my mind & that my dream of a wellness center would have to be re-dreamed or put on hold until l figured this part out.
Im still figuring it out. I don't know what’s ahead but what l do know is that l’ve already seen & experienced heaven on earth. l hear the song of love in the sound of birds singing, l dream of the land and it dreams me, l look to Orion and know that l am loved & connected and above all l am closer to spirit now more than ever.
4. Is there a difference between what you believed before the cancer and after?
My belief that eating the right foods, exercising and having all the “right’ practices was the path to good health & well-being, but what l began to realize was that well being doesn't necessarily mean being free of disease. We can have well-being in the midst of disease if we choose to align with that thought.
I love BKS Iyengars’ quote ‘Yoga teaches us to heal that which needn't be endured, and to endure that which cannot be cured’.
I’ve been told Ayurveda cannot cure cancer but l wasn't looking for anything external to ‘cure’ cancer. l knew it was my body, my breath and my mind that needed alignment.
Each night l would awaken with tension in places that l didn't even know that l had. New tensions from old places. For years l’d been practicing yoga nidra & surfing the Koshas uncovering and being with layers of myself. This was a new journey that required a deeper connection, a new way of Being.
5. What did the darkest moment bring up?
My body had been trying to speak to me about emotional healing and although l thought l was doing it, breast cancer arrived and asked for something different. I had to uncover long held, unhealed experiences: some of which my conscious mind had refused to acknowledge.
I’ve always had an issue with crying in front of people but l let the tears come. Tears for parts of myself that l left unacknowledged and unattended, tears for my idea of health and well-being. Gosh, how could l be teaching others about health and healing when l'm sitting here with breast cancer? It was through that question that l discovered the fact that well-being is state of mind and once l aligned within my body l felt less constricted, more relaxed and open.
The darkness of self judgment lifted, and l felt free to be who l am once again...
6. How do you connect to your yoga and ayurvedic practise these days?
l teach & practice restorative yoga on bolsters which helps open up & release emotional tension. I use specific postures to deepen my internal awareness. I also have a personal daily practice of yoga asana which keeps me strong and has helped me regain full mobility after the surgery. My ayurvedic daily practices continue as i observe changes that are taking place. I oil, oil, oil..... Daily breast massage with Castor oil, frankincense & vitamin E which has eliminated scar tissue & healed up the scar.
My private practise has evolved, as it does, and l'm seeing more clients who are going through cancer.
Om tat sat
BIO: Jeanette is a dedicated Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist & Life Coach with an emphasis on mind/body emotional health & wellbeing. She has a private practice in Sacramento CA and teaches workshops & classes in both the U.S. & Australia.
Trained in various mind/body techniques, she is an E-RYT with Yoga Alliance. She holds the following certifications qualifications: Ayurvedic Health Educator, Ayurvedic Yoga Therapist, Certified Irest® Yoga Nidra Teacher, (psychology of yoga), Yoga of Recovery Counselor, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Certified Life Coach & Behavioral Therapist & Sivananda Yoga Teacher.
Jeanette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Skpye jeanettedvorak1 or USA: 1 (916) 628-5332