Vicky Fox, who you may know from our Power of Alignment classes and who is trained in teaching Yoga for Survivors, recently began teaching classes for Those Living with Cancer at our studio. The classes take place every Wednesday from 15.30 to 16.30. In this post Vicky shares the principles behind her classes and explains the benefits they can bring to those recovering from cancer.
I always start my classes for those living with cancer in savasana scanning the body. Giving you a chance to observe what it feels like to be in your body at that moment. Not what you think you should feel like but what it actually feels like. You are the only person that knows what it feels like to be in your body and as the teacher I am just your guide. You are actually the best teacher. We don’t often spend time just being as we are, constantly doing. Maybe this is the only time that day that you will stop and just notice how you feel. Once you start to become aware you can then make sure that the practice you do is perfect for you.
Then we start with Dirga Pranayama, full diaphragmatic breathing into the belly, ribs and upper chest to connect with the energy body. When we are anxious our sympathetic nervous system is dominant and the breath is typically shorter and more shallow. We can use the breath to soothe the nervous system and induce the relaxation response.
Classes vary as to who is in the class and the classes are open to students with any type of cancer at any stage of recovery. The breath is key and we move with the breath to help open up areas of the body that may feel closed due to surgery or treatment.
The class will have a mixture of strengthening exercises, as you lose muscle mass doing surgery and chemotherapy, and stretching – the physical body also responds to stress. Also, as fatigue is a huge issue for most people I try to make the practice a healing practice with lots of active and restorative postures that can help balance energy, gentle back bends for mild fatigue and restorative forward bends for deep relaxation, grounding postures and balancing pranayamas.
There are also particular poses that are good for some of the symptoms of chemotherapy and radiotherapy such as Supported Child’s Pose (over a bolster) or legs up the wall (Viparita Karani) for feelings of nausea. Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana) helps to ease diarrhoea and indigestion. These poses offer your body complete relaxation and therefore your body has a chance to restore and heal.
Hopefully coming to practice in this safe environment will give you some tools that you can take home with you to be able to use during your treatment or after treatment to help you deal with the stress and anxiety of a cancer diagnosis.