Monday 14 April 2014

Yoga Practice After Chemotherapy

By Karen MacLeod HBBA, CYA-RYT

Karen is a yoga teacher, runner, cyclist and hockey enthusiast with a passion for food, the outdoors, and coaching the entrepreneurial spirit. She passionately encourages others through her adult hockey program and yoga classes and believes that it is never too late to ignite your strengths and find more joy.

Yoga is About You on Your Mat and How You Feel in That Moment

Real yoga is not about comparison, competition, nor accomplishment - it's about how you feel in the moment

You’ve read about its benefits, heard about it from your health team and know how yoga’s impact on inflammation and fatigue has helped cancer patients. Now you are convinced that yoga can improve your chemo-muddled mind, your hijacked, fatigued body, and your shaken spirit.  But where do you start?

Yoga is more accessible than ever before, but with increased popularity comes the whole yoga-Industry story and this can be intimidating.  We see hair commercials with models doing aggressive yoga postures, magazines advertising young girls in tight clothing, and new yoga studios popping up all over with flashy teachers and expensive classes.  Intimidating indeed, especially now that you are dealing with all of the cancer sh*t.  Here are some suggestions to help you relax and start your own very personal yogic journey.


Yoga is more than the wonderful stretching and strengthening exercises.  It’s about uniting your mind, body and spirit.  I ask you to let go of all of your preconceived notions of what a yogi is supposed to look like.  Real yoga is not about comparison, competition, nor accomplishment.  It’s about you on your mat and how you feel in that moment.  So make an effort to clear your mind and exhale any negativity on whether you are good enough. You are good enough.

Look it Up

Next grab a cup of tea and surf online to wet your toes in the vast sea of free yoga videos, online demonstrations, and articles. Research the various types of yoga and be sure to search with phrases that reflect where you are at with yoga i.e. gentle yoga, beginner yoga, healing yoga, or fiery yoga, if that is where you are at.  Learn some of the very simple and basic poses or asanas such as Child’s Pose (Balasana), Mountain Pose (Tadasana), or the very relaxing ending pose, Savasana.  Vow not to let all of the info intimidate you. There is so much out there on the world wide web so don’t feel that you need to come away with anything learned.  Just say hello.

Find Your Place

The key to enjoying yoga is finding the right yoga teacher for you and signing up for one of their classes that is right for you.  Many yoga studios, gyms, or home classes allow you to trial a class before committing so why not find a few places and pop around from class to class for the first while.  It may make you feel better to go a few minutes early and let the teacher know that you are in the process of healing and plan to take the class at your own pace.  Keep it short and sweet, then find your spot on your mat and be open to what comes next.  Notice what you notice and remember to be kind to yourself.  Yoga is a practice, not a perfect.

Make the Commitment

Yoga is a journey and a practice so make the commitment. It may start out in one place and lead to a completely different place in time. Keep your mind open; open to being present; to clearing your mind; and to stretching and strengthening your body to its optimal alignment.   If you have trouble getting out to practice then do it at home on your mat to a CD or an online yoga class.  And if it isn’t working for your body at the start, ask questions and find out from a good, caring yoga teacher what will work for you and the body you have today.

Spring into Action

You owe it to yourself to try it for at least three months. A well-chosen yoga class and teacher will allow you to start slow and progress at your own comfort level adjusting for your specific needs, strengths and limitations.  Once you find those authentic yoga teachers who inspire you, offer the depth of class you want, and who are ready to offer guidance you will never be the same again.  It’s sort of like when you finally get in the habit of eating delicious dark chocolate, or drinking fresh loose leaf brews; you won’t want to go back.


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