How it All Started: Afghanistan, Yoga, Breast Cancer

Welcome to Sun Salutations’ very first blog post! (This is the first blog post I’ve ever written in my life actually.) I thought it would be fitting to write about how this all started. A summary of Sun Salutations’ story is featured in the About Us video, and here I’ll give a little more detail.

This story can be summarized in four words: Afghanistan. Yoga. Breast cancer. 

I first started teaching yoga in Afghanistan. I was living and working on a military base at the time. The fitness classes offered on base are run by volunteers, so if no one is available or willing to teach the class, the class doesn’t run. When I first arrived on base I was delighted to see there was a yoga class offered, and was also delighted to see it was taught by an older man (retired Air Force pilot). At the end of class he told all attendees he was going on leave for 90 days, and if we wanted the class to continue, someone would need to lead the class while he was gone. I remember looking around the class and no one was responding. I didn’t want the class to end and I remember thinking to myself, “There’s no reason I can’t teach this class.” So I raised my hand and volunteered. A small detail is, I had never taught a yoga class before in my life! After a bit of googling and YouTube-ing, I began teaching yoga to the military service members and civilians on base. It started off as once a week, then twice, and sometimes three times a week. After a year of teaching yoga I enjoyed it so much I decided to get certified. I went to Thailand to do my 200-hour YTT (yoga teacher training). It was a month-long intensive program and I was doing yoga at least 4 hours a day and eating clean. It was one of the healthiest times in my life, yet, at the same time, I unknowingly had cancer. Four months after receiving my yoga teaching certificate, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

I will always be grateful for this sequence of events, that I could teach and learn breathwork, yoga, and meditation while I was strong and healthy, as these things that helped me mentally and physically throughout my cancer journey.

A friend asked me, “You survived Afghanistan and breast cancer, what’s next?” If there’s one thing surviving cancer teaches you, that is, tomorrow is never guaranteed. If you really want to do something, do it! Live your life now. These thoughts were strongly burning within me when I was cleared to return to work (which took a year). Once cleared, I returned to Afghanistan, and began teaching yoga on base again. It was a huge milestone for me to teach yoga again after all of my reconstructive surgeries.

It was at this time I wanted to buy a yoga greeting card for someone. After searching online and not being able to find one inspiring enough to buy, I thought, I could make some greeting cards. This is how the idea started. And so I did. I bought the company domain (can you believe was still available in June 2019?!), I formally registered the company, and applied for a trademark all in my barracks rooms in the middle of Afghanistan with really bad internet. From there I researched images that I wanted to feature on the cards. From the beginning I wanted to support the diversity of the yoga community, and highlight the healing power that yoga offered. I reached out to all of the artists I am partnering with while I was in Afghanistan.

Fast forward a year, and I launched a Kickstarter for the company in the middle of a global pandemic. And finally at the end of September, the website has launched! It has been a lot more work than I thought, but I am so excited for people to finally see these cards and share them with others. These are much more than cards, and I think they’re really going to inspire people. Thank you for your support and for being part of this journey!

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