"Yoga was my awakening," says Kris Carr. The former actress and dancer had begun her Jivamukti Yoga practice years earlier as a way to heal injuries from a lifetime of dance and as a respite from her hectic life in New York City. But five years ago, when the deep twists of her practice had become unbearable and doctors were unable to determine the cause of the pain in her torso, Carr insisted on a CT scan. The 31-year-old was diagnosed with a rare and incurable cancer that had started in her liver and metastasized to her lungs. "I believe that yoga made me more in tune with my body and brought me to the place where I could access the power of my inner physician, that wise voice that says, 'Something is wrong—act now,'" Carr says.
As she grappled with her diagnosis, Carr found that the yogic concepts introduced to her by Jivamukti Yoga founders Sharon Gannon and David Life resonated as they never had before. She chose a vegan diet, both for her own health and for the health of the planet. She added meditation to her asana practice, which gave her the focus she needed to make clear decisions about her health and the way she wanted to live.
As Carr explored alternative therapies for her body and spirit, she began recording—a video diary of her cancer treatment. The result was an irreverent, spirited documentary called Crazy Sexy Cancer, which was broadcast on the Learning Channel and the Discovery Channel5—in 2007 and is now available through Gaiam; an accompanying self-help book is titled Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips. Both the film and the book address the unique problems and lack of community that young women with cancer face.
"The book and the documentary were my way of creating sangha [spiritual community]," Carr explains. "I don't have all the answers, and I learned that we all have so much to share and teach each other."
Thus went Carr's transformation from patient to well-being advocate."
She started a social networking website, my.crazysexylife.com, where those living with cancer or seeking a healthier lifestyle can share holistic healing tips. And she has plans to establish a nonprofit foundation that will give cancer patients resources for participating in the maintenance of their health and well-being.
Five years postdiagnosis, Carr's cancer is stable, and her new book, Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor: More Rebellion and Fire for Your Healing Journey, was released in September 2008. Carr's busy schedule teaching workshops on nutrition, meditation, and yoga for cancer patients has redefined her yoga practice.
"Cancer is not a gift. I wouldn't give it to you," she explains. "But it was a catalyst for change in my life. I wanted to give others permission to laugh again and realize they are still whole people who are not just defined by a diagnosis, or a disease."