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Doing Yoga to Fuel Your Fight with Cancer

Posted by Courtney Lozano, MSW, LSW on September 28, 2018



It's the chant that begins and ends most yoga classes.

But this simple mantra is more like a sigh of relief for a growing number of people.

"Yoga can be so relaxing, so restorative; it's one of the most powerful ways to help us feel better both physically and mentally," says Courtney Lozano, program director for Holy Name Medical Center's Cancer Support Community.

And there's no better time to explore the power of this ancient practice than September, the official National Yoga Awareness Month. First designated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2008, the yearly campaign’s goal is to educate the general public about the benefits of yoga. Studies show yoga can have a positive impact on many health conditions, from hypertension and heart disease to chronic back pain, asthma, arthritis, and even breast cancer.

It has been said that when cancer takes your breath away, yoga can give it back to you.

"Once people hear a cancer diagnosis, many find themselves holding their breath," explains Courtney "It's only natural when you get bad news. We want to help people to breathe again."

At Holy Name, the Cancer Support Community’s yoga classes are offered for free to anyone who has been touched by cancer, including patients in treatment and post-treatment, family members, and survivors.

"We have two different yoga instructors who lead our classes; every instructor has his or her own style and method of teaching so participants can see if they prefer one over the other, or they can attend classes by both instructors," explains Courtney.

Classes are offered on Friday mornings and Wednesday evenings. One of the best things about them, says Courtney, is come as you are.

"This is not a fashion show; nobody is here to see or be seen," she says. "Wear your most comfortable sweats because the goal is to improve flexibility, balance, and mood. To do that, you don't need to wear anything special."

After all the poking and prodding, many patients with cancer say they feel more like a science project than a person. These yoga classes are designed to restore the connection between the body and the mind.

"Patients are so focused on what's happening medically that having the opportunity to improve emotional well-being is also vital in their cancer journey," says Courtney.

Part of that emotional well-being is regaining some power over the disease. Through gentle, restorative poses, Holy Name's yoga classes can help to rebuild both the physical and emotional strength that patients need to keep fighting. And patients make a connection with others who are coping with similar circumstances. "Having cancer can be an incredibly alienating experience, but yoga can help patients and survivors connect with others who feel the same way," says Courtney.

In addition to yoga classes, the Cancer Support Community at Holy Name offers almost 40 programs a month to choose from, even for patients and families who receive treatment at other hospitals. Although classes are free, pre-registration is required. For more information, or to view a schedule please take a look at: www.holyname.org/cancersupport