Meeting Sarla Nichols for the first time is like meeting an old friend. This vibrant 67-year-old grandmother credits Yoga with saving her life. After beating breast cancer twice, she received a diagnosis of stage four colon cancer a year ago. In January of 2018, they told her she wouldn’t live to the next year.

“Resilience,” she says, “like other skills, improves with practice.”

“That first time I got a cancer diagnosis, I totally fell apart. I was mad and felt betrayed. The second time, I was incredulous and probably even angrier. I felt that I had worked hard to overcome so many things that I couldn’t understand how this could be happening to me.”

It was Sarla’s third diagnosis, last year, that she credits with her personal transformation.

“The third time, I woke up to the fact that something was systemically wrong in my body. I didn’t know where to go, but I was desperate for a solution. I didn’t want to die.” Sarla’s quest led her to Dr. Joe Dispenza, author of the book, “You are the Placebo.”

“That was the beginning of my healing,” she says. “The main thing I learned is that every day, we all have a choice of what thoughts and emotions we want to carry into the following day.”

She now believes that having a victim mentality can be an enormous obstacle when it comes to overcoming a disease. “The problem with being a victim is that you feel you’re at its mercy and that you’re dependent on something outside yourself to fix it. The minute I turned inward and told myself, ‘I’m going to assume responsibility for this,’ things changed.”

Sarla says that at the most fundamental level, it begins with replacing each negative thought with a positive one. “Old negative thoughts are like a groove in a record. You need to actively reframe your thoughts consistently until you’ve made a new positive groove.”

“The importance of what I’m doing now is based on having survived when I wasn’t supposed to live,” she adds. “I have a new appreciation for yoga and am excited about introducing it to people who really believe their own physical limitations would prevent them from practicing.”

Her belief is that yoga instructors should be able to accommodate students of all levels. Sarla describes her classes as a one-room schoolhouse, giving modifications to beginners while challenging those who are more advanced.

She shuns one-size-fits-all advice when it comes to the journey toward personal health and enlightenment. “I don’t think that any one way is right for every person—even for any one person—because we all change with time.”

Sarla’s personal yoga practice has evolved, and she’s embracing the Long Hold in her daily practice. Each pose is held for three minutes. “I’ve chosen it because it’s very calming.” She’s been pursuing a lot of healing modalities, one of which is Qigong, which was designed to be a preparation for meditation. “I don’t think I truly appreciated the importance of meditation until I got really sick. The immune system craves that quiet.”

Sarla finds it encouraging that many major cancer centers are beginning to offer yoga, healing touch, and acupuncture. “They’re realizing that if you want to treat the whole person, the health of the mind is as important for healing as whatever treatment the patient is going to receive.”

Beyond beating her diagnosis, Sarla says that she’s happier than she’s ever been. “I have better relationships. I feel closer to other people. I don’t think I would be here today if I didn’t have joy in my life.”

Cooper Street Yoga is at 524 South Cooper Street. Sarla Nichols is hosting an opening Fire Ceremony Class at 11 am on January 1, 2019. Ongoing classes will start the following week. For more information, visit

By Caroline Sposto

Photo by Philip Murphy