Hi all (following Jean Di Carlo Wagner's suggestion and starting a discussion),

I'm hoping to take a training to teach cancer survivors some time this year. But I've also noticed a training program for Yoga Therapy that I'm interested in. In your opinion and experience, is teaching cancer survivors just a more specific form of Yoga Therapy? Would I benefit from taking both trainings?  
And if you could give some input as to how you came to teach survivors that would be great!


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Hi Liz,
I developed an interest in teaching survivors after my bi-lateral mastectomies. I searched for classes specific to my needs but found nothing, but that was 7 years ago, so I developed my own modifications. Since then I have completed my 240 RYT & am continuing my education/training @ the Duke Integrative Center in Durham, NC this summer. I am already teaching 2 classes to survivors & of course every time someone new walks through the door. I say take both trainings if @ all possible, they will open a whole new world to you!
Best of luck!
Peaceful blessings,
Thanks for responding. This is helpful! Glad that you've taken the bull by the horns and made something so positive out of a scary situation.
hi liz,
these are my thoughts - and my background is that i am trained/certified both as a yoga instructor and at the 1,000 hour level as a yoga therapist. i have been teaching yoga to cancer survivors since 2005, and in fact will be leading a training program this summer for others who want to do so. am also a cancer survivor and had been teaching yoga before dx.

the yoga therapy program i did was laboriously extensive, about 2.5 years of work start to finish, and i LOVED the rigor and the confidence it gave me. in the program i did, and most traditional yoga therapy programs you learn an approach, which is the panchamaya (or 5 kosha) model, as well as a lot of about ayurveda, chakras, etc., etc. while a yoga therapy program may not teach you about how to work with every single possible illness or injury, it will/should give you the skills and confidence to say to yourself, 'this person has breast cancer AND a frozen shoulder/fibromyalgia/parkinsons/knee replacement/depression or whatever,' and know how to create a smart yoga program for them to aid in healing.

i am all in favor of doing BOTH trainings, it will boost your confidence and you will find so many other ways to help your students. for example, i have developed classes and a focus in yoga for fertility enhancement that came out of the survivor class, because of the needs of those students. so i think a 500 hour yoga therapy program (or 1,000 if you are nutty like me) PLUS a cancer specific training program would serve you really really well going forward.

i will put in a tiny plug for my upcoming training, but feel free to contact me offline if you want more info or want to discuss specific yoga therapy programs, i loved mine. my survivor intensive = 6 day intensive in boulder, plus one whole year of follow up support and mentoring. lots of groovy guest speakers at the intensive, and less expensive than duke. learn how to teach yoga to survivors of any type of cancer, at any stage of recovery. you do have to have been teaching yoga for at least one year. http://yogaworkshop.com/calendar/Y4S_3.php

long winded reply - hope it helps!
Thank you so much for this thorough reply! I WISH that I could get out to Colorado to take your training. But even though I can't, I'm really glad that you linked to it here, hopefully some people in your area will be interested. And maybe someone will be inspired to commute across the country even though I can't.
Thanks again and hope to see you more around the site. :)
Hi Liz, Jean and all YogaBear teachers

I am jumping into a conversation Liz initiated 2 months ago asking ‘is yoga for cancer survivors just a more specific form of Yoga Therapy?’ I am new to the Blog, and this topic holds special interest for me. I hope my thoughts will be helpful and that this is not too late, Liz. I welcome further thoughts from others.

My answer is NO.

First, we should define what Yoga Therapy is. And second, lets explore the difference between a Yoga Teacher and a Yoga Therapist.

Therapy is treatment for a specific disease or disorder with the intention to heal and sometime cure. As such, it is focuses on a disorder, not necessarily the whole body or person. For example, a physical therapist treats someone recovering from a hip replacement, or a speech therapist will assist a stroke victim regain what was lost. The therapy is given in sessions with a single person over a usually limited time.

Both yoga therapy and yoga teaching share an arching interest to cultivation a clear mind united with a healthy body. A yoga teacher educates (instructs). The focus is the whole body and mind, not just a specific condition, like a therapy.

In 2000 after I finished chemotherapy, radiation and recovered from several breast cancer surgeries, then I became a cancer survivor. I have been studying yoga for cancer and teaching yoga for almost a decade. But I still get nervous before every class fearing that I may not understand someone’s vulnerability that day. My weekly classes now average 20-30 women. Twice a year I lead a yoga retreat for women cancer survivors. Since 2005 I have trained over 200 other yoga teachers to understand the long-term side effects of cancer treatments so they can better serve survivors who seek the benefits of this practice.

In my personal experience taking a class as a patient in treatment the yoga styles that targeted me as ‘ill’ and ‘coddled’, made me feel worse, rather than blissful. I wanted to know how the poses worked to maintain my body cancer-free. I wanted to hear the teacher us the word cancer related to yoga. I did not want to be treated like a sick person.

Learning how to understand cancer and how to talk about cancer is the first step. Learning what poses have special benefits and which poses to avoid is the second. Yoga teachers need to understand the basic nature of cancer, treatment side effects, long-term vulnerabilities, and the fears, concerns, feelings survivors will bring to class. So you are right to seek specialized training and be curious about how to create a safe environment.

In deciding on a teacher training for cancer survivors, here are questions you should ask about programs:

• Is a minimum 200-hour yoga teaching certification required? (It should be.)
• How does the training differ from yoga therapy training?
• How much supervised teaching is included in the training?

Questions you should ask yourself:

• What is your biggest concern about teaching yoga to cancer survivors?
• What do you think cancer survivors would expect from you as a yoga teacher?
• What ideas do you have about cancer survivors’ needs?
• What pre-conception and fears about cancer may you have?

You can serve cancer survivors well, as just a yoga teacher. There are many survivors that need and what to enjoy the benefits of yoga. There is a job to do.

By way of a tiny plugging, I invite you to consider the 45 hour OM Yoga teacher training for Women Cancer Survivors that I teach. Go to www.omyoga.com. The schedule includes Holbrook, NY, Charleston, NC, Boulder, CO. Check out the dates.

Or send me inquires. tarip@earthlink.net.
Namaste, Tari Prinster

Read my post
Wow, Tari, thanks! I was kind of blown away when I opened this post. This is methodical and detailed and to the point. I'm on board for your next training in NYC, btw. Just waiting for the schedule to be posted.
Stay grounded. Don't be blown away. But thank you.
Let's stay in touch. Can you get to Long Island, Holbrook for the Aug. 19-23 training? Easy ride on the LIRR. Next NYC training will be early November. Exact dates to be posted soon. I will have an information session about 4 weeks before.
Feel free to ask me any questions before that. Keep the conversation going.
Namaste, tari
Will plan on doing the November training (as long as it isn't over Thanksgiving weekend!). I'm very excited about this. Expect my application as soon as the dates for NYC are posted!
Hi Liz
The date for NYC has been posted. It is Oct. 20-24.
See the course description and application at

Let me know if you have other questions about the training. I look forward to meeting you.
Thanks Tari! I'm pulling together my application and will be on board as soon as I get my recommendations together. Looking forward to meeting you too! -L.
Tari -- I am very inspired to read your reply. I feel that I need a lot more training in order to teach yoga to cancer survivors - although even at this point, I feel I have something to offer with my limited training in yoga and having a license in marriage and family counseling here in California.

If you ever should do a training here in Los Angeles (or for that matter, somewhere in Southern California) - would you please let me know? I think your approach is one I resonate with.

Namaste -- Robin B. Munson
My e-mail address: robin.munson@gmail.com
Hi Robin
Thank you for including your email address. I will add it to my West Coast folder.
I am working on a training in either San Fran or LA. Could be in early Jan. 2011.
Lets stay in touch thru the YogaBear blog.

Everyone of us has something different to offer. I like to use the image of a lake. You can approach getting into the lake for a swim on a hot day from many directions, angles and styles. Your professional training in counseling is a perfect example. I have a good friend and fellow colleague who took my training 5 years ago. She is a psychotherapist, yoga teacher, not a survivor. She helped me understand her feelings about teaching and her fears about cancer. She wrote a paper on her experience in my training and starting her own classes for survivors. It was an important lesson for me to see that thru her eyes. I will ask her permission to post the paper. We all have much to learn about cancer and yoga, much less yoga for cancer.


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