We all understand the benefits of Yoga in our own lives, but did you know that there are now specialist classes for people impacted by cancer? Whilst recovery rates are increasing these days, we sadly know more people who are dealing with either a diagnosis, treatment or the recovery process. Yogamatters caught up with Vicky Fox, a yoga teacher who specialises in classes for cancer patients to find out more about the benefits.
What are the benefits of a yoga for Cancer class?
I help people connect back to their changing bodies and to find their breath. Being told you have cancer takes your breath away and yet it is our breath that brings us to the safety of the present moment. Breathing consciously is empowering because whilst we know we can’t control what is happening we can control our response. Anchoring into the present moment can be the hardest thing to do in class, but learning breathing techniques that you can take with you and use when you are waiting to see oncologist, have scanxiety (the anxiety of waiting for scans) or are having your chemotherapy can help you feel calmer and more in control. Our breath is the quickest way to affect our nervous system and by changing the way we breathe we can also soothe the nervous system and put our body in the best place to repair or nourish and this is often called the rest and digest or parasympathetic side of the nervous system.
Why do you need a specialist class for cancer though surely breath is taught in all yoga classes?
It’s not just about the breathing. An increase in the survival rates mean that more people are living with the side effects of treatment but are not necessarily supported post treatment. The class addresses the common side effects of treatment from scar tissue to Lymphoedema. They can learn cooling breathing techniques for hot flushes. Small movements to strengthen hands and feet to keep muscles active if the long peripheral nerves have been damaged.
Cancer Related Fatigue (CRF) is one of the most common side effects of treatment and it is a fatigue that is not alleviated by a good night’s sleep. Studies show that it can continue for years after treatment. The classes should help participants sleep better, feel less fatigued and enjoy a better quality of life. It sounds counterintuitive to exercise when you are already feeling tired but by building muscle mass ,which we lose when we have periods of bed rest and inactivity, we have more strength and therefore use less energy which makes daily activities more manageable.
Cancer treatments may leave some students with tubes inserted into their bodies or openings, such as a peripherally inserted central catheter line (PICC line), portacaths or stoma. People might feel nervous exercising with these but they can feel reassured that the class already takes these into account and adapts so that the class is suitable for everyone.
Are your classes in studios or online?
The classes are both in person and livestreamed so that everyone can attend a class regardless of location or circumstance. Alongside the physical and emotional support of the yoga teaching is the community support the class brings. I didn’t think this would be possible with online classes but there is a real sense of intimacy when you are teaching from your home directly into other people’s homes. The community and advice of other people who are on the same journey as you is invaluable to those attending making them feel loved and supported.
Tell us more about your teacher training.
The teacher training is a 40-hour accredited course by Yoga Alliance Professionals. It allows teachers to go on and teach these rewarding classes. They learn how to create a safe environment so people can have an opportunity to repair, nourish and strengthen their bodies and minds. We have wonderful guest speakers including oncology physiotherapist Louise Malone and clinical palliative care nurse Liliana Branco who share their experiences of working with people living with cancer. Ultimately it is about giving people a better quality of life and that is where yoga for those impacted by cancer has a crucial role. For more details and to book visit triyoga here.
About Vicky Fox
Vicky is registered with the Yoga Alliance as a senior registered yoga teacher and teacher trainer. She teaches at triyoga in Camden, Ealing and Chelsea, and Paul’s Cancer Support Centre. She also teaches applied anatomy on Julie Montagu’s, High Yoga School and Carolyn Cowan’s teacher training course and has an extensive private client base. In 2013 Vicky studied with Laura Kupperman on her “Yoga for Survivors” teacher training course and is now teaching yoga to cancer patients at any stage of their recovery. Vicky runs a Teaching Yoga to Those Diagnosed with Cancer training so that more teachers can feel supported to teach these wonderful and supportive classes. Yoga For Cancer training is 24th -27th January, at tiyoga Camden + Livestreamed to book click here.