AskTari – Is it possible to do yoga in a CT Scanner?


Muriel W: Muriel completed her cancer treatments in May 2009. Her oncologist requested a CT scan for her first sixth month post treatment check up.

Muriel Asked Tari: Yesterday I was so nervous when I got onto the scanner, I stopped breathing before they told me to. My heart was pounding hard, I was feeling claustrophobic and extremely uncomfortable. Then I remembered your words, ‘Count your breath slowly and the mind will follow.’ I did. I immediately became calm, my muscles relaxed, and I finished the scan feeling optimistic and empowered. It was like magic. Thank you for this simple yoga lesson and breathing technique.
I was wondering at the time, was I doing yoga in a CT scanner? 

Tari Answered: Yes, Muriel you were doing yoga. You don’t need a class, a mat or a teacher to give you directions. That is what makes yoga such an important tool in your recovery process. You can do yoga anywhere and anytime. And it helps you manage those naturally scary moments we all have, like being in a CT scanner.

Sometimes we need yoga most for places not designed for quiet sitting or exercise. You are stuck in traffic, or waiting for a doctor’s appointment, or expecting a phone call with test results, or in your case, in a the CT scanner.

Yoga is a portable prescription for relaxation and renewal. I am sending you ten more yoga things you can anytime or anywhere…in a bed, in a chair, in a car, at the store, in the air… I call it Pocket Yoga©.

Muriel, I hope that your scans were all ‘negative’ and that you kept breathing calmly all the way home. I love hearing stories about how yoga has been helpful and comforting to people in the simple ways. Thank you.

AskTari – When is it safe to start yoga?

Cynthia Asked Tari: Since my mastectomy surgeries I have not been about to gain back all the strength and mobility in my right arm and the implant makes me nervous about moving it a lot. My sister has done yoga for years and is encouraging me to start yoga classes because she believes yoga can help me regain the use of my arm. I have never done yoga before. When is it safe for me to start?

About Cynthia: Cynthia had a mastectomy in May 2010. The final surgery to complete her breast reconstruction using an implant was July 5. She is 45 years old and a single working mom.

Tari Answered: The unqualified answer is, Start Now! However, you used the most important word in your question to me. SAFE. I thank you for that. Our loved ones encourage us with ideas and suggestion to speed our recovery. You have to love them for that.

At first glance, the idea of yoga for cancer patients undergoing treatment and now in survivorship seems obvious, a logical step. What better way to manage anxiety, gain strength, increase flexibility and create feelings of well being? I agree. That is certainly what I did and continue to do. However, helpful ideas come in big packages and you are right to ask when is it safe to do yoga.

Yoga is a big package. In it there are some yoga secrets as well. What is good for your sister may not be good for you as a cancer survivor. The popular notion is that yoga is good for everyone, whatever its style, flavor or size. But we know that is not true. Just like cancer, yoga is not one-size-does-fits-all. Everyone’s cancer, treatments, side effects and body are different. 

To help you understand how yoga can be good for you and when it is safe to start, here are questions back to you:

Are you ready? 

It is a good idea to have your doctor’s permission. You may have other physical conditions not related to the cancer that should be considered. In relation to your cancer surgeries, however, it is critical that all surgical drains and staples have been removed and that your incision is healing well.

What Kind of yoga? 

There are many. I have prepared a list of the yoga styles most commonly practiced and taught in the West with a short description of what to expect in a class that is based on these styles is included to help you discern what style is best for you.

A better question is: With whom? 

Healing begins with feeling safe. Feeling comfortable with a yoga teacher is the most important factor to putting yoga into your life as tool of self-healing and creating health in your future.

Yoga teachers are trained to teach to a diverse yet general population. Awareness of the limitations imposed by surgeries, chemotherapy and the many life-long side effects and vulnerabilities of cancer treatments and reconstruction are not covered in most yoga teachers training. Observe what questions a teacher asks you. This is your best test of whether the style, class and teacher are a good solution for you to begin or continue yoga.

You ask the questions! Learn about the teacher’s training and experience with cancer patients undergoing treatment and survivors in general.

Where to find a yoga class?
In generic gym-based yoga classes, teachers are not usually trained and knowledgeable of the limitations and concerns of survivors. These venues can be intimidating and risky for someone who is trying not only to gain physical strength, but also, self esteem. Find a yoga class specifically for cancer patients and survivors. Get a schedule, visit a class and talk to the teacher. Again, if you would like to know about y4c trained teachers in your location, please here.

How often?

Yoga is a practice not an event. In order to feel the benefits of yoga finding time in your schedule to practice, 2-3 times a week or more, is important. Are the classes located conveniently and at times that will fit easily into your life? Large classes can be discouraging for beginners. Trust your intuitions.

I hope this helps you find a yoga teacher and class that allows you to thrive, as well as survive. Yoga can be a tool to help you reclaim your life during and after cancer. If used properly, yoga can also be a lifetime companion that will smooth out all the challenges of life, not just the ones we experience on the cancer journey. In the meantime, please send me more questions, share your findings and stay in touch.


AskTari – Will yoga prevent a cancer recurrence?

Will yoga prevent a cancer recurrence?

Kathy Miller: A 10-year survivor, Kathy is concerned about recurrence and the effects of radiation from frequent mammograms.

Kathy asked Tari: I am confused by the current controversy over mammograms. Are they a preventative measure or not? If used to prevent cancer, I am concerned about the long-term effect of exposure to radiation. Surely, diet, exercise, good support systems all helpful in prevention. What about yoga?

Tari Answered: Thank you for asking me this question. I hope the answer will be helpful to many who do not understand what the current research and media coverage has been. Both are causing confusion for women. Your question is very valid and gives me an opportunity to promote my favorite topic: Yoga as a life long prescription.

The current controversy and discussions about the new guidelines on mammograms issued by the Preventive Services Task Force has covered a lot of newspaper space. In addition there were reports about vaccines and ‘pills’ that prevent cancer, specifically cervical and prostate cancers. Buried in the reporting, editorials and reader comments was another article on prevention. It had to do with theories about what we can do to protect ourselves from a cancer or cancer recurrence by making lifestyle changes. This approach gathers little support or interest from drug companies and even the government research initiatives.

About the Preventive Task Force recommendation, I think it is important to put it in perspective and understand the language. It was guidance for women and doctors. The decision to have mammograms was properly left to each woman.

Perhaps the confusion is in the word prevention. That word gets confused with risk reduction. Mammograms don’t prevent cancer. They identify a possibility that cancer exists. Where as, proper diet and exercise CAN reduce the risks. And who knows what really prevents cancer?

This is where yoga comes in. Adding yoga to your week, day and life can be as important as a mammogram, a vaccine or a pill. Yoga can help you reduce your risk by keeping your immune system strong and cultivating an environment in your body that is cancer resistant and healthy. When will they research and talk about the benefits of yoga?

I suggest you read the following article:

FORTY YEARS’ WAR – Medicines to Deter Some Cancers Are Not Taken
By Gina Kolata
Published: November 12, 2009

“Cancer steals your breath. Yoga gives it back” ©

AskTari – Would HOT YOGA be good for me?

Would HOT YOGA be good for me?

Sara G: Chemotherapy treatments for more than 8 months have left Sara weak and fragile. In addition, she experiences constant discomfort in her joints and neuropathy in her feet.

Sara asked Tari: Last week in yoga class you explained how yoga can help detoxify my body. This makes a lot of sense to me, especially when I think about how the lymphatic system removes toxins through sweat and urine.
I want to do more yoga to purify my body, but I am not very strong right now.
I was wondering if HOT YOGA would make me sweat more and help detoxify the chemo from my body faster?

Tari Answered: Thank you for asking me this question. I hope the answer will be helpful to many who do not understand what to expect in a HOT YOGA class. The answer is yes. HOT YOGA will make you sweat more.
I wish you had asked me the question, ‘Would HOT YOGA be good for me now’? The answer is a very strong NO! Not because HOT YOGA is bad, but because it is not the best choice for you now while you are still being treated and until you are feeling stronger.

The word YOGA can be misleading. There are many kinds of yoga and not all yoga is the same. Certainly not all yoga is gentle. HOT YOGA classes are vigorous and challenging. It is a method based on what is called, BIKRAM Yoga, using a series of 26 poses and breathing exercises in a room heated to 105 degrees. The purpose is to warm up the muscles quickly and promote detoxification via sweat. Classes are usually always the same. A similar style called Ashtanga Yoga is also a fixed set of poses linked by flowing movement and synchronized breathing to produce intense internal heat. One style uses external heat, and the other, internal heat, to produce the purifying effect of sweat.

Sara, I don’t think either of these yoga styles would be the best way to put more yoga in your life and experience the detoxifying benefits of yoga. However, I will offer you some simple guidelines and suggestions in finding the proper yoga for you while you are undergoing cancer treatments.

Things to ask and look for in a yoga class:

  • Ask for a class description. The word ‘gentle’ should be in it.
  • Make sure there are restorative poses included in that description. Restorative Yoga provides detoxifying benefits to your nervous system, as well as your lymph system.
  • Before class, meet the teacher and explain your interest in practicing yoga as a cancer survivor.
  • Feeling comfortable with a yoga teacher is the most important factor to putting yoga into your life as tool of self-healing and creating health in your future.
  • Express concerns you have and ongoing side effects, such as; lymphedema, neuropathy, chemo ports or surgical drains.
  • Tell the teacher you are in treatment. This is not a secret best kept.
  • Ask the teacher if he/she has had specialized training teaching yoga to cancer survivors.
  • Volunteer pre-existing health conditions to the teacher.

For example; high blood pressure or hip replacement.

Often those issues need more safety consideration when doing yoga, than cancer.

  • Ask what the average class size is likely to be.
  • Make sure the teacher knows your yoga experience.
  • Trust your intuitions about the teacher and the environment.
  • Have your doctor’s permission to do gentle yoga.

I want to applaud you for being curious about the different styles of yoga. Your goal to detoxify your body by doing more yoga is best found in balancing effort with ease.

Always keep in mind, that ‘the more peaceful you can become, the more healing you receive’©.

Please send me more questions, share your findings and stay in touch.

“Cancer steals your breath. Yoga gives it back” ©