y4c© – Mind, Body & Soul of a Cancer Survivor:
An introduction to modifying your teaching style with Tari Prinster, Rita Trieger & Antonio Sausys
The workshop on December 8th held at Pure West was an excellent demonstration on working together for a common goal. It was clear, and acknowledged, that all three of the teachers before us did not necessarily agree with each other on every point. That is going to happen when we talk about cancer (or anything else!) because there is still so much unknown and so much associated emotion.
The workshop was broken down into 40 minute lectures by three teachers, Tari Prinster, Rita Trieger and Antonio Sausys. Each brought their own personality, research, approach and experience to the discussion. In the forty minutes allotted to each speaker, there was a combination of lecture and some light practice, followed by a general Q&A session.
Speaking first, Tari Prinster, a cancer survivor and yoga teacher since 2003. She is the Founder of y4c and the Retreat Project (nonprofit, gave the bare bones summary of the kinds of things you would learn in her multi-day Teacher Training. Her biggest goals include setting a standard for y4c teachers and getting the medical community to embrace the healing potential of yoga. Tari explained some of the things you need to be aware of with cancer survivors and patients, including problematic cues such as, “Take a deep breath.” She also spoke of the short term side effects that treatments can bring as well
as the life long side effects that can occur, such as bone thinning, limited range of motion, anxiety and loneliness. She stresses it is the teacher’s responsibility to be as knowledgeable about the disease and the treatments as possible without mistaking yourself for a doctor. We are here to help our students feel better through yoga and that is all we are qualified to do.
Rita Trieger was up next, and she spoke of her work teaching yoga therapy for both cancer and heart patients at Stamford Hospital in Stamford Connecticut. Her emphasis was on the nurturing aspect of a teacher’s job and she spoke a lot of what it means to have compassion. Rita told us the positive reactions her students have to her warm and maternal approach of fostering a family atmosphere within her group of students. In her teaching demonstrations, we used yoga nidra and guided imagery to calm the mind and body. She also uses aromatherapy tools to cultivate positive feelings and associations during practice. Like Tari, Rita stressed that a good teacher must know what they are dealing with. Cancer itself, the treatments, the possible side effects are all necessary knowledge to ensure a safe and helpful class.
Speaking last was Antonio Sausys (B.A. Psychology, M.A. body-oriented Psychotherapy) is a somatic health practitioner and yoga instructor. Antonio brought a very spiritual feel to his portion and it felt much closer to traditional yoga. He stressed the importance of understanding there is nothing wrong with your student, you are not trying to fix them. As a teacher, you are simply trying to find a way to reach your student and help them to feel their best. His goal is mainly in changing the way the student is thinking about their cancer by, “reprogramming the mind to healing and leading to a better dialogue with the body.” Antonio spoke of his personal experience with his father’s cancer and offered sound advice on the importance of being able to adapt.
As a teacher, you are often faced with many different kinds of students with many different opinions and beliefs. In this way, the format of the workshop at Pure was perfect. The tools for working with several different personality types were offered, as well as the spirit of commonality and respect for each other’s beliefs. The Mind, Body & Soul of a Cancer Patient workshop was jam packed full of information and tools for healing that are ideal for any teacher or person touched by cancer.