YOGA: Touched by cancer? Welcome to the studio.

For most of us, unfortunately, it takes far fewer than six degrees of separation to connect to someone who has been touched by cancer. It would be challenging to find a person who doesn't know a relative or acquaintance who's received that frightening diagnosis ... or who hasn't heard the words "you have cancer" with his or her own ears. To me, that means we can all benefit from the specialized yoga4cancer (y4c) methodology in some way.

I completed my y4c training earlier this month, and couldn't wait to share what I learned. Whether you have been recently diagnosed, are post-surgery and/or still receiving treatment* , or you began your journey with cancer years ago, you'll find many benefits from these tailored classes. Even caregivers and friends will get something from this unique approach to the practice.

I loved finally meeting Tari at my weekend intensive last month at  Zen Barn  in Waterbury, Vt.

I loved finally meeting Tari at my weekend intensive last month at Zen Barn in Waterbury, Vt.

Y4c founder and breast cancer survivor Tari Prinster shares 10 main benefits of yoga in her book:

  1. It detoxifies the body. By systematically using the physics of movement, gravity and resistance, the y4c methodology uses a specialized vinyasa flow to help circulate lymph fluid, clearing away rogue cancer cells and other wastes.
  2. It strengthens the body. With the support of plenty of props, y4c safely uses body weight to build bone and improve cardiovascular fitness.
  3. It increases range of motion and flexibility. Slow, gentle patterned movements (alternating flexion and extension) improve mobility, while passive restorative postures soothe muscles.
  4. It keeps the spine strong. Methodically moving the spine in five natural ways (lengthening, bending forward, bending backwards, bending sideways, and rotating) improves breathing, digestion and more.
  5. It strengthens the immune system. The whole thing: musculoskeletal, respiratory, lymphatic, cardiovascular, nervous, endocrine, digestive, and integumentary (skin).
  6. It helps manage weight. The accessible, active vinyasa of y4c helps burn calories.
  7. It helps manage pain. Variations of traditional yoga postures allow everyone to practice more comfortably, and simple breathing exercises and the final restorative poses enable the body to relax and heal.  
  8. It helps manage fear and anxiety. The science on this one is plentiful--pranayama helps settle the mind and improves sleep.
  9. It enhances body image. "Yoga makes us feel good from the inside out." Tari says. Freeing our minds of negative thoughts is one of the best things each of us can do--on and off the mat.
  10. It enhances empowerment and well-being. Yoga allows us to find calm, manage stress and thrive. 
Tari demonstrated the benefits of a super-supportive restorative posture toward the end of practice

Tari demonstrated the benefits of a super-supportive restorative posture toward the end of practice

After reading that list you might be thinking, "Hey ... everyone could use this kind of yoga!" And I would wholeheartedly agree. The y4c methodology is an alchemical recipe that allows folks of all kinds of ages, sizes and abilities to enjoy the benefits of the practice. 

So whether you yourself have dealt with cancer, you are accompanying another on his or her journey, or even if you're just y4c-curious, there are a variety of resources to help you get started--videos, writings, and trained teachers all around the world. 

If you're near Weymouth, Mass., consider joining us at Open Doors Yoga Studios, 4:45-5:45 p.m. Thursdays for Yoga for Those Touched by Cancer. I'm also available for private classes in Southeastern Massachusetts and Southern Vermont, as well as online via Skype or Facetime. If you're brand-new to yoga or returning to the practice after dealing with a diagnosis, there's always a place for your mat.

Got questions? Please let me know how I can help!

*with a doctor's clearance