Hope Knosher knows the path to contentment comes with obstacles, challenges and often freefalls. She also knows the end is worth the journey.
Knosher’s path led her to Hope’s Yoga, where she teaches people to find their inner strength and resiliency in mind and body through yoga. She knows on a personal level the solution to many problems often lies deep within.
When she was in her mid-30s, Knosher developed health problems and was diagnosed as “terminally infertile” after years of trying to have a second child. The news was shocking, but Knosher knew it was also wrong.
“I had already given birth to a daughter, and felt deeply that I was going to have another girl,” said Knosher, a Tennessee native who moved to Atlanta in 1986. “I remember clearly the moment I was kicked out of infertility treatment. It was part devastation, part wake-up call.”
She took matters into her own hands, researching the connection between healthy foods and healthy living, and quickly realized she had been abusing her body for years.
“From that moment, I changed everything,” she said. “I detoxed my body of chemicals and unhealthy foods.”
The lifestyle changes worked; after an initial miscarriage she delivered a second daughter, now 17. But around the corner loomed a second, more serious challenge. In 2009, in the midst of raising her young family and in the chaos of a home renovations, the words “you have breast cancer” upended her life.
“Hearing those words shook me to my core,” said Knosher, who lives in Johns Creek. “In a moment everything changed and I began a journey into the unknown. Honestly, I wasn’t sure where to turn or what to do in that moment.”
The cancer diagnosis forced the normally private Knosher to open up to others and humbly accept this was a battle she could not fight on her own.
“I remember being overwhelmed by all that was going on in my life...doctor appointments, treatments, surgeries, and decision making [which all] took a front seat over the next year,” Knosher said.
Already a healthy eater, she stepped it up even more during her year of treatment. But she soon realized that all the good things she was putting into her body could not help the chaos that took hold of her mind.
“What I didn’t tackle was what was going on inside my mind and spirit. I didn’t realize that my mind was also affecting my body,” Knosher said. It was during this time she turned to yoga, which had always been on her “to-do” list, but never checked off. Knosher knew she was in lockdown mode, with trouble sleeping, functioning, and even breathing at times because of the stress.
“I had a sleep study done in hopes of getting some answers, and the doctor recommended I try yoga. I took it to heart and found a class, and, as they say, the rest is history,” she said.
Like many new yoga students, she overcame her intimidation and realized yoga was not just for gymnasts, dancers, and young people.
“I had an excellent teacher who welcomed me in each class and encouraged me to keep going. It was the support I needed,” Knosher said. “Over time I experienced incredible changes in my body and my mind. I began to let go and to live more fully.”
The former college basketball player, whose nickname growing up was “five-twelve,” Knosher took quickly to the physical challenges of yoga and loved what it was doing to her whole body.
“In yoga, there is a saying that ‘the issues are in the tissues’, and mine were well seasoned,” Knosher laughed. “[Through yoga] I finally started releasing layers of mental and physical holding that had accumulated throughout my life. Yoga was the piece [of my life] that was missing.”
She soon felt called to share yoga with others, to take what healed her and pay it forward. Knosher trained to become a certified yoga instructor and therapist, and started teaching yoga classes part time.
She soon left my job as an athletic director, founded Hope’s Yoga and “haven’t looked back,” she said. Knosher has a studio in Johns Creek where she enjoys teaching smaller classes that allow her to get to know her students and the individual goals of each one. But she also takes her classes to businesses, corporations, private groups and individuals.
As a yoga therapist, Knosher’s client list includes people who have cancer and chronic illness, and she has a weekly adaptive yoga class sponsored by the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation.
While there a number of yoga forms, Knosher teaches a gentler form of hatha yoga, with many adaptations for individuals who may be starting their yoga journey with the question, “Is yoga for me?”
“By making yoga personal for each student, they can keep yoga relevant to their body and life experience no matter their situation. This way, yoga can evolve to fit their needs as they change,” she explained.
She takes students on an annual retreat – this year’s excursion was to Sedona, Ariz. – and is looking to start retreats in North Georgia for cancer patients and those experiencing chronic illness.
“These retreats will enable students to get away, renew, and rejuvenate while getting educated on ways to better care for themselves,” Knosher said. There is no question yoga is hugely popular; the American Yoga Alliance estimates nearly one in three people participate in some way, with one in 10 regular yoga devotees.
Hope said she believes there are two factors driving its success: first, Americans are in the midst of a health crisis, and second, yoga works.
“We are seeing chronic illness on an epidemic scale, and we’ve lost the knowledge of how to care for our bodies and minds,” Knosher said. “[But] we are also beginning to understand the connection between our lifestyle and our health...and finding that yoga can help.”
For someone looking to start yoga, Knosher said the key is to find the situation that is right for you.
“There is a Zen saying ‘our path is where our feet are, so we might as well start there,’” she says. “So start where you are, not where you want to be.”
Do research, ask for referrals, find experienced teachers or therapists, and then give it a try, she advised.
Knosher said she is in a good place, both physically and mentally, but she says the specter of cancer is never far away, despite years of being cancer-free.
“It wouldn’t be truthful to say I don’t think about cancer...it is in the back of my mind,” she acknowledged. “[But] yoga has helped me let go of these thoughts and anxiety more quickly, and to remember to live in the moment.”
In the end, Knosher realizes the irony that breast cancer ultimately led her to her life’s calling.
“My journey has not been a straight line to where I am today. I now get to share something I am deeply passionate about with others,” she said. “And at the end of the day, my heart is full, and I now sleep well.”