The ‘Yoga for Cancer Survivors‘ class was developed, in 2005, as surviving late stage colorectal cancer. It combined my experience as a yoga practitioner for over twenty years and my career as a Resource Specialist . After cancer, I found myself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually depleted. I needed a specialized yoga class and thought that others survivors needed one, too. There were no direct trainings for cancer survivors. I chose two gentle yoga training programs that focus on deep feelings within our bodies called “Meditation-in-Movement” and an adaptive yoga for seniors training called “Silver Age Yoga”. In 2010, I completed my RYT500 training with Atma Yoga, using sound and vibration for healing and to relieve psychological stress. I continually update my skills with yoga trainings which enhance my ability to serve survivors. My work in this field of over ten years has allowed me to be apply to be grandfathered into the International Alliance of Yoga Therapist (IAYT) and E-RYT500.
The design of the hour long class: 15 minutes of breath exploration, 20-30 minutes of gentle body openings and asana (supine), and 15 minutes of various meditation practices for the purpose of deep healing. In a live class, or now on my monthly “Yoga Phone Classes” for homebound patients, I take time in the beginning of class to ‘check in’ with students. We are an important community for survivors and having time to witness where someone is, is part of the healing process.
- Lilias Folan – my yoga seed planter
- Breath work is the best way to rebuild stamina and soothe the nervous system. However, breathing exercises need to done safely, and with a research-based model. A breathing practice of 15 minutes of is a long practice. We do not do any holding or pushing the breath out forcefully, as cancer recovery leaves most patients in a weakened condition. Asana practice begins with reconnecting with our bodies through slow, careful observation of movement and subtle stretching. We do range of motion in each joint. It is a most effective way to build confidence in knowing how our ”new” bodies move. We listen deeply with love and compassion. We can empower students by teaching anatomy and physiology as we teach yoga movements. We must include research facts in the class as well as use yogic philosophy to blend all possibilities of healing into a class.
I see my class as a bridge to healing: empowering the healer within each student to develop. Some students continue to take weekly class and consider it a form of self-care to devote one hour to listening to their bodies. In class, I repeatedly give permission to “follow your own yoga”, even if that means meditating while some of us stretch. My passion is designing safe and effective classes for newly diagnosed patients, patients in active treatment, and patients in long-term treatment.
At one time or another, most students fall into a deeply restorative sleep and awaken refreshed from having listened to their needs. Many times, I encourage students to change their poses, wiggle and come back to a ‘yoga face’ and to loosen their jaws. We allow “Being” with ourselves. We feel compassion for what our bodies have endured and what our spirits and minds are now challenged to integrate into our life’s story. Some students have cancer that is managed, and while they participate in other forms of exercise, they consider their hour of yoga a time to practice patience and acceptance.
The class is done in the supine position, and so, some cancer survivors are not able to participate due to pressure on their backs. Others cannot get down to the floor, even with the assistance of a chair. One type of yoga is not going to suit every cancer survivor’s need. Of the hundreds of yoga studies I’ve read, using different types of yoga and different combinations of breath, asana and meditation, all students benefit from the practice of yoga. Finding their yoga match is something we teachers can support with information.
My students report that they take the ‘Yoga for Cancer Survivors‘ CD to chemotherapy and listen because they find it soothing to focus their minds on yoga. Even if they are not actively engaged in doing the stretches, there is benefit in preparing their mind. Helping others survive cancer gives me great purpose . It is a gift to me that I am healthy enough to support others. I hope to ease some pain and anxiety during treatment . Now the YCS cd is being translated Spanish and Slovene!
I invite you to take part in a 85 hour online YCS teacher training. I will be giving Yoga Alliance approved C.E.U.’s for each section, by email. Upon completion, you will receive a beautiful “Certification of Completion”.
“The Art & Science of Teaching Yoga to Cancer Patients and Survivors‘, is the ONLY an online YCS yoga teacher training course. It is ongoing class and you can enroll anytime. Each lesson has interaction and feedback from me. It is individualized for you and I want you to be successful in learning how to safely, effectively, and competently support survivors. All are welcomed to take Part 1 (25 hours). You may enroll at anytime for Part I. However, only students who successfully complete Part I will be approved to take Part II and Part III. A certificate at the end of the training in Part III is awarded to those who successfully complete making their own hour long audio class which is uploaded to YOUTUBE. We keep creating good, free content for the most fragile of cancer patients: those who cannot leave their homes or the hospital.
Blessings to all of us who travel this footpath together. Bring your Light to others through healing with yoga.
Namaste and Blessings,
“Healing is a state of mind and heart”