What is the main thing that you see that people don’t know about when starting yoga during or after cancer treatment?
There is this widespread misconception that yoga equals doing strange poses called asanas, and that you have to be physically fit and slim in order to do it. Unfortunately, this is created by the yoga magazines depicting beautiful young and slim ladies in more challenging asanas. The concept of yoga techniques as a vast variety of therapeutic tools is still unknown and very much unappreciated as yet.
The misunderstanding that yoga is the physical exercise is widespread. Yet, the term “yoga” encompasses an immense science of yogic practices from postures (asanas), breath management techniques (pranayama), meditation, chanting, mudras and bandhas (yogic locks), to a deep relaxation called Yoga Nidra. They all present a vast variety of therapeutic effects. Yoga has proven to be very effective in dealing with various psychosomatic, stress-related and lifestyle disorders, as well as the side effects of cancer treatments. It works on our body, energy, emotions, and state of our mind, bringing all the systems back to balance. There is no doubt that yoga provides a highly effective solution and relief during the time of high stress and life-changing trauma of a cancer diagnosis. And, unlike many treatments, it does not create negative side effects!
The challenge for cancer patients and survivors is to find a knowledgeable yoga therapist who has practiced all of these techniques, knows their effects and at the same time, understands the nature of the given disease and treatment. Yoga therapy is a rising field and only two years ago the standards for training yoga therapists have been laid out by International Association of Yoga Therapist (IAYT).
In 2016 IAYT started to accredit school programs according to their strict standards. The Association also started the process of yoga therapist certification. Such certification requires 1000 hours of training, which includes also practical internships. To find a certified yoga therapist go to the International Association of Yoga Therapists www.iayt.org and look for one in your area. When you find someone, my first question would be if they have their own daily yoga practice, which they do for themselves – we call it sadhana. If the answer to this question is no – keep on looking, until you will find a practitioner, who is doing himself not only asanas, but also pranayama and meditation.
What kind of feedback have you gotten from your clients or medical professionals in terms of the benefits of your programs?
We conduct standard psychological tests on the first day, last day and as a three-month follow up during every program. Over the last four years, almost every patient showed dramatically reduced levels of depression, confusion, tension, and anger. At the same time, levels of well-being, hope self-empowerment and energy were greatly increased. Their whole demeanor changes and they regain the spring in the step and spark in the eye. This stays with them past the three months follow up because they do their practices at home.
Here is what one of them says:
“I attended a three-week Beyond Cancer retreat for cancer patients conducted by Lee in October 2016. This program has been designed by her using the knowledge of practices and philosophy of Yoga. It is a very intense program and has a very positive impact on the participants. Apart from feeling physically recharged, I was able to get over a lot of emotional stresses and came back with a lot of positive energy. Being healthy requires not only physical fitness but also a healthy mind and emotional well-being. Lee has a very good knowledge of Yoga practices and uses techniques like meditation and Yoga Nidra to delve deeper into the psyche of the participants. Using specific interventions, she is able to bring up a lot of pent-up and suppressed negative emotions, which get accumulated during treatment and in our past life. She then helps the participants to unburden these negative feelings and get over them effectively. Her capability of understanding the human mind and handling emotions is excellent. She is a truly committed professional who understands the needs and emotions of people who have been through the trauma of cancer. ”
Kanwar Seth, Delhi, India
There are also several very moving stories shown in videos posted on our website.
What is your advice for yoga teachers who want to work with cancer patients and survivors?
My first advice is the one I give to all teachers who I train. “You cannot teach what you do not experience! You must not teach if you do not have your own sadhana practice.”
If people want to work therapeutically with any specific population, then my suggestions would be as follows: take yoga therapy course from a school accredited by IAYT. You will then have the proper knowledge of the tools and approaches to the disease you are dealing with. That requires a serious commitment – both financially and time-wise.
If you cannot afford that, then my second recommendation is to understand the nature of the disease and side effects of treatment. Understand the stages of treatment and the state of the patients. Learn contraindications, to be able to match the yoga tool to a particular state of the patients. Knowing and understanding what people are going through will help to make your treatments effective. I also would advise taking special care and time in assessing peoples’ physical, mental and emotional conditions, which are changing from day to day – so I suggest the classes should be individual, one-on-one.
Finally, remember that asana is only one tool out of the whole of variety in yoga. Therefore, take the time to find out what particular patient responds best to. It may be meditation, it may be chanting, it may be asana, it may be pranayama or a combination of any of those.
How can people find out more about your business?
So far, the only tool we use currently is the websites www.yogaforhealth.institute and Facebook (www.facebook.com/cancerdetox). As a result, we get patients from all over the world – both Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and, of course, India. However, after four years of running Beyond Cancer, word of mouth is beginning to work and we find ourselves booked well in advance, with a waiting list. I just hope to have more yoga therapists trained, so that we can start offering our programs to all those who can benefit.
My direct e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.