Hello everyone,

I am writing because I hope that you all will be interested in assisting me with a project. I am a masters of social work student and am taking an oncology course. My professor assigned us a group project that asked us to team up with a community program and figure out a way to help the cause. My group chose Yoga Bear because we believe in the importance of treating the whole person and have read many articles stating the benefits of yoga for cancer survivors. Yoga Bear and our group have decided to create a handbook that Yoga Bear can give to Yoga instructors and others who join Yoga Bear. We were thinking that a section of the handbook could be dedicated to helpful tips for yoga instructors that are working with cancer survivors. So this is where you come in... What are some things that you wish your yoga instructor knew before you started the classes? What are some things that you've appreciated about Yoga Bear's program? What are some suggestions for how things could be different? Any and all feedback is appreciated! Also, if you have suggestions for sections you think we should put in the handbook please let me know. You can either continue the discussion or email me at . Thanks for your help!

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Stephanie, have you seen the "Tips" for instructors section of our website?


This was put together by one of our advisors, Kelly McGonigal. There are also a few links to other resources.
Hi, Stephanie,

I looked at your request and realized that even though I am a cancer survivor, even though I have been a yoga student for five years, even though I am myself a licensed MFT, and even though I am planning to take a yoga teacher training course in January so that I, too, can teach cancer survivors – I haven’t really given a lot of thought to your question. So, thank you for raising the issue -- What are some of the key points in teaching yoga to cancer survivors?

Finding out that you have cancer is like being woken out of a sound sleep to find out your house is on fire and the flames are all around you. It’s like finding yourself in the middle of a war where you are faced with a monstrous, ruthless and faceless enemy. It’s like finding yourself – like Wiley Coyote in Roadrunner cartoons – suddenly in mid-air hanging on by one finger to a cliff overlooking the deepest chasm you’ve ever seen. It is, in fact, finding out that there is an alien parasite living inside your body feeding off of your life force, your chi, your prana. That’s how it feels. If you have never experienced this, it is impossible to imagine. If you have experienced it, it is impossible to forget.

So, when I think about teaching yoga to cancer survivors, here is what comes up for me.
First and foremost, instilling a sense of safety. Of all of the things that were taken from me while I was in treatment, my sense of safety was the most prominent. For many of us (and I know it’s not necessarily universal) you feel as if your “healthy sense of denial” has been ripped out from under you. Even your own body has betrayed you.

So my best tip for you (and for me) is – Help the student to experience a sense of safety and serenity in her practice. This is the most valuable gift that yoga has given to me so far. If I can be in the moment -- one of the key messages that has been conveyed to me throughout my practice -- then I can experience myself in that moment, on my mat, as completely well, whole, happy, and filled with prana/chi/life force. This is the complete opposite of dis-ease and it reminds me that I am much more than a cancer survivor. And I can carry this sense of calm with me after I have rolled up my mat.

It took me a couple of days to compose this, since it is a revelation to me about myself. I hope it’s helpful.

What a beautiful and thoughtful post, Robin. Thank you. And you're right - I started yoga for the physical help, but I am hooked on my teachers because of their peaceful, inspiring, supportive, joyful teaching.
Thank you, Amy. Isn't it interesting that our experiences are so similar? Yoga has been a life boat for me and so much more. I wish you continued good health and happiness as your own journey unfolds. If I can ever be of help, please let me know. I'm a pretty good listener (and I can "listen" visually! LOL). Namaste.


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