Yoga For Cancer Teacher Training
April 1, 2015 | by Michelle Meier
Benefits of yoga abound for everybody, especially those with cancer. After my mom passed away from cancer, it's been my mission to learn how I can help those whose lives have been touched by it and it proved to be a more emotional journey than I thought.
I just returned from the Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge, MA, where I was welcomed with snow flocking the pine tree-studded mountains and icing the roofs of cozy homes, smoke wafting from their chimneys. What a magical sight for a Florida-based yogini!
Kripalu is a mecca for yoga practitioners and teachers alike and I'd gone there to attend a Y4C (Yoga 4 Cancer) Teacher Training with Tari Prinster, Y4C Founder. After witnessing my mom's 18-year battle with breast cancer and eventually losing her in October 2012, I yearned for answers.
I've practiced yoga for over 15 years but it wasn't until my mom received a 6-month life sentence after the cancer had metastasized into her bones that yoga became a lifeline for me. Getting on my mat everyday helped me process my emotions and enabled me to be more present for my mom. While my mom never took up yoga, I knew somehow yoga must help those who have or have had cancer. Only I didn't realize just how much until I met Tari.
Tari dispelled many myths about cancer and yoga and engaged us with the numerous benefits of practicing yoga with cancer, such as:
- decreases stress, anxiety and fatigue
- boosts the immune system and our ability to heal
- relieves pain and inflammation
- enhances lymphatic flow and eliminates toxins
These are just a few of the benefits. Learning to teach yoga to those with cancer proved to be a bigger challenge than I thought. I felt like I was learning how to teach yoga all over again, as, aside from a person's history (including other injuries or ailments), I must take into account the type, stage and grade of cancer, size of tumor, stage of treatment and side effects. There was a lot to consider but Tari was an informative guide.
This was a 5-day, intensive 45-hour training where we studied and practiced morning 'til night, after which we then delved into reading and homework assignments before bed. It was physically tiring learning so much in a relatively short amount of time and it was also emotionally taxing for me, as everyday I relived what my mom went through over the years (the countless surgeries and meds, chemotherapy, radiation, the loss of her hair, the loss of her breasts...). I cried myself to sleep every night. I missed my mom so much and hated that she had to suffer the way she did.
It especially hit home the day Tari took out the duct tape when our session began. Curious sets of eyes fell upon her and the tape she held in her hands. She had asked us to wear clothes we don't mind getting possibly ruined. This made me even more nervous. As we sat there staring at her with uncertainty, she asked us to think of some of the most horrible side effects of cancer treatments. Lymphedema, neuropathy, and limited movement were some of our responses.
She then bound us in the duct tape, mimicking these effects. Some us had our upper arms taped to the ribs to demonstrate lack of arm mobility after removal of lymph nodes or reconstructive breast surgery. Some us had rice taped to our feet to demonstrate the feeling of neuropathy. And then she led us through an entire yoga class all taped up. It was brilliant. And it was physically and emotionally painful. I felt what it had been like in my mom's body after all she'd been through.
After passing the exam for the Y4C certification, I feel mentally, physically and emotionally drained. I'm proud of my accomplishment but I also realize just how much it touches me to the core to be able to help those with cancer and their loved ones. So if you see my cry during one of my sessions, it's only because I care so much and I want to help you on your path of healing. I want to create a path founded on Love and Joy for you. Because everyone deserves that.
"One must not forget that recovery is brought about not by the physician, but by the sick man himself. He heals himself, by his own power, exactly as he walks by means of his own power, or eats, or thinks, breathes or sleeps."