Urban Zen was created by fashion designer Donna Karan in response to her husband’s battle with cancer. Integrating Western medicine with Eastern healing techniques, Urban Zen was born out of Karan’s desire to thank the over-worked nurses and doctors who had helped them.
Nichola Dunne taught Urban Zen twice-weekly at YogaWorks in Pacific Palisades and, in addition to three flow classes, currently teaches it at Goorus as well. Nichola has always taken good care of herself: she exercises and eats right. But she discovered a lump in her left breast nearly three years ago, and has undergone a double mastectomy and subsequent other surgeries since then.
While the past three years have been a challenging time for Nichola, teaching and practicing yoga have helped her navigate this unchartered territory. “My personal practice has been more limited. My doctor told me, for example, that I couldn’t do Down Dog for eight weeks after surgery. But I can still do standing poses, restorative poses and balancing poses. Recently, I did my first forearm plank since March!”
Nichola grew up in the San Fernando Valley and went to CSUN, earning a degree in biology. She also studied landscape design, and worked at a garden nursery for many years. She eventually married and had two children, settling in the Palisades.
Nichola took her first yoga class in 1995 and recalls, “I was a real gym rat and even thought about becoming a personal trainer, but burned out. I started yoga because I wanted to do something spiritual. Yoga is the perfect blend of spirituality and exercise for me.”
Nichola enjoyed yoga so much that she wanted to deepen her knowledge, perfect her alignment, and practice safely. She completed her teacher training with YogaWorks founders Maty Ezraty and Lisa Walford in 1997. Says Nichola, “I just took the classes because I enjoyed them, but my friends kept asking me to teach them. I started out teaching yoga in my living room.”
Nichola worked around the Palisades from the Cyprus Center to Yoga Works to Spectrum/Bay Club. Nicholas says about Goorus, “I like the independent studio environment. This location has been my home since the very first yoga studio (Jiva) opened here.”
When asked about her illness and if she could share advice with other patrons living with cancer, Nichola says, “Let people in, but have boundaries. I regret not telling more people about my illness. After my second surgery, I felt isolated. Now, I ask my family and friends to come around, but if I’m not feeling up to it, I let them know…I would also tell a person with cancer to continue their yoga practice--whatever they are capable of doing. Be as consistent as you can and stay connected to your yoga community. It makes a person feel better in body, mind, and spirit.”