Eric Pettigrew first fell in love with yoga in 1998, and as a dancer, noticed how practicing asana engaged his body in completely new ways. Within a month, he’d enrolled in a teacher-training program at OM Yoga Center, in New York, and has been teaching yoga ever since. He also practices at various studios near his Greenport, NY home, often following the likes of Rodnee Yee and Colleen Saidman at Yoga Shanti, and Claire Jannuzzie and Heidi Fokine at The Giving Room. “I believe it is important for yoga teachers to practice amongst each other, as we can always learn new approaches to instruction we had not thought of before,” Pettigrew says.
In 2009, while finishing his last year of study in homeopathic medicine, Pettigrew happened upon Tari Prinster’s yoga for cancer survivors. “My practice changed over the years and my teaching changed with it,” he says. “Yoga has moved from a more athletic approach to one focusing on the gentle restorative qualities that can benefit those who suffer from physical limitations and injuries.”
And yoga for cancer survivors falls right in line. “I wish this knowledge of yoga that is now more accessible to cancer survivors would become a standard part of any program or institution geared towards healing,” Pettigrew says.
Of course, he is doing his part. Here he answers a few questions for us:
1) What do you love most about working with cancer survivors?
Giving cancer survivors a sense of empowerment is beneficial in physical, emotional, and spiritual ways that reciprocate to me. I bask in the afterglow of their achievement. It also helps me engage with others in a more compassionate way on a daily basis. The sense of community we generate in the studio is awesome: Through the open forum of the class, the students develop stronger relationships with themselves, their bodies, and with others who have walked similar paths.
2) What has the work taught you?
The work has taught me the importance of being present and connected to life, regardless of the limitations and pain we may encounter. It doesn’t take much to bring relief in progress towards health.
3) What are your goals for your work and what’s next?
In teaching yoga to cancer survivors facilitated with the Fighting Chance organization, I see that most of the students who participate are women, and I would love to see the practice extend to the male community. I want to create a venue to include all who have been affected by cancer. Tari and I have been discussing the development of “Partner Yoga,” a class that would bring both the cancer survivor as well as their partner/caregivers, to experience the benefits of yoga together. Even if they have not experienced cancer within their bodies, the effects of the disease spread to them, as well.
4) What is your favorite asana?
Supta Baddha Konasana: Reclining Bound Angle Pose with a blanket rolled underneath the spine. In this pose the head is supported along with the thighs, allowing the hips and heart to open in a gentle and relaxed way.
Supta Baddha Konasana: http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/663
For more information on Eric Pettigrew and his schedule, please visit his website: www.holisticlifeworks.com
For information on Fighting Chance, a nonprofit organization that facilitates services for those affected by cancer, please visit http://www.fightingchance.org/