Why Yoga for Cancer?

“Life happens while you’re busy dreaming”

A dear friend of mine, Kelly, came face to face with reality, and life, in the fall of 2017.  I remember the day her husband, one of my closest friends, told me they found cancer in her colon, and she was going for more tests.  I will never forget the next day when he shared it was Stage 4 metastatic colorectal cancer that had spread to her liver and lungs.

Devasting.  Kelly was in her early 40s, healthy, active, doing all the right things. and this… this happens.  

I can only struggle to imagine how Kelly, her husband, their son, and their family felt.   The speed in which things were happening was incredible at this point, with multiple doctor appointments, consultations and planning, more tests, plus her first chemotherapy appointment scheduled less than a week after the initial diagnosis.  It was REAL LIFE and time was essential to get a handle on this.  

Without question or hesitation, I offered all I had plus more.   I was, and still am, fully aware it ‘takes a village’ for challenges like this.  Having been in the thick of it with my parents and other family and friends, I intended to be one of the linebackers blocking for Kelly and family.

In the midst of this shitstorm of life, Kelly asked me to help her by figuring out how to modify her yoga practice.  She had a regular practice and wasn’t sure how it would be impacted by all that was coming, both planned and unplanned.  

GAME ON.

Knowing the rabbit hole of googling and my own curiosity, I spent quite a bit of time on this ask.  The research and findings flabbergasted and inspired me; what has been documented regarding the scientific and psychological impact of yoga on individuals with cancer is simply amazing.  The research and acknowledgment is in the early stages and the conclusions so far are breath taking. Leaders in medical, wellness, and yoga communities have spoken, written, and shared the incredible impact of yoga practice for individuals with cancer.  I was stunned and humbled this was not more forthcoming in both the yoga and medical communities, and I knew then this was/is my mission and dharma to share.

Since that initial ask, and lots of reading and learning, I am still evolving in my knowledge of yoga for cancer.  My education continues, with professional certifications via Yoga4Cancer by Tari Prinster (certified March 2019) and Duke University Integrative Medicine (certified June 2019), plus I’ve been working with and learning from Kelly and other clients in public classes and private sessions since October 2017.    

I’ve plenty yet to learn, and what I’ve discovered so far is simply amazing.  It’s not just the physical practice, though there is plenty of that involved, it’s the breath, the moments, and  holding space. It’s listening, both to the body and voice; it’s holding hands figuratively and physically.

It’s treating and respecting the person; meeting him/her where they are at, and recognizing they are not simply a patient, – they are a spouse, friend, parent, sister/brother, with a mind and spirit, that needs space and healing along with the physical body.  It’s accepting this person has a family and life, dreams and fears, and cancer impacts EVERYTHING. It’s understanding that cancer treatments can be worse than the disease, not everyone is ‘cured’, and each and every experience is unique and to be honored.

My offerings vary for the person and their needs.  I host a Yoga for Cancer class at Renkon Yoga Studio (Bloomington, IL) using my certified methodologies, curating intentional space for our local community.  Additionally, I teach private sessions locally at homes, Renkon Yoga Studio, or medical facilities, and am available for virtual sessions. I’ve spent time with my clients and their families at their homes or visiting them in hospitals, and at times simply listened and held hands or wiped tears.  My goal is to create an intentional practice incorporating breath work, meditation, and movement for my classes and private sessions.

Yoga is for everyone- not just those in shape, flexy or bendy, or wanting to put their leg behind their heads.  In fact, I’d suggest those who are impacted by a major disease, such as cancer, need yoga most of all.