Again, thank you for your focused work in completing Module #2. And congrats as for most Module #2 quite heavy and challenging. But the details on cancer and its treatments are fundamental to understanding how to best serve the cancer community. In future modules and ultimately in our weekend together, we will put this information to the test and build a practice that will serve both the physical and emotional needs of a cancer survivor. So I thank you for your attention and responses to your homework and quizzes.
Spoiler alert! For those who have not yet completed Module #2, we recommend finishing the module and all assignments before reading the below.
Module #2 Feedback from Tari:
Your reflections and thorough observations detailed in Assignment #2.5 will serve your future students well! Module 2 was content heavy- it’s possible you may have felt overwhelmed at times. Remember that you can review this information as many times as you wish over the course of this program, and you have the manual forever. Additionally, you will have continued support from the y4c Team even after completion of your program. Indeed, being a yoga teacher- and especially a yoga for cancer teacher- means that you will be constantly learning and informing yourself on the topics of yoga and cancer, and applying that knowledge to your classes. When your students know that you are informed and curious, you will win their trust and they will be more open to the yoga you offer.
Reading through your assignments was heartening. Many cancer survivors are not familiar with what they should expect from a yoga teacher when seeking safe and practical classes, and they carry their own fears with them to class, often keeping them unexpressed.
The impact of physical side effects gives way to the emotional body of someone touched by cancer. If you are not a ‘survivor’ (and yes, I hate using that word), this assignment was designed to ‘try on’ the physical challenges of the survivor and witness how, in doing so, your compassion is heightened. If you are a survivor, perhaps you experience or re-experience those physical challenges. In whichever case, setting aside what was difficult for you to make space for the challenges of others was the goal. Keep this lesson within your awareness as we move forward to explore further how yoga can assist and adapt to those challenges.
You also had to list asanas, sequences or pranayama that you thought would be most challenged by breast reconstruction. Some of you have already witnessed such circumstances in yourself, students or loved ones. The frequency of that happening for all y4c teachers is high. In general, your suggestions reflected an understanding of the potential short and long term side effects. However, suggestions of asanas to avoid, like child’s pose, bow and down dog deserve discussion and exploration to unleash their benefits with being properly modificated. We will do that during our webinar session and weekend training session.
You were asked to pair asanas and pranayama to specifics sides effects from several common cancer treatments (chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy). This was an opportunity to observe how these treatments are different. And also ask the question, Are the poses you would avoid during chemotherapy the same if someone is going through radiation, or another type of treatment? More discussion is needed about the duration of side effects from treatment to treatment. For example, someone undergoing radiation having completed chemotherapy may still be experiencing neuropathy. In addition there is the great possiblility that some side effects may overlap. For example, radiation can cause fatigue and perhaps chemotherapy fatigue has not subsided. It is important to understand that even though each treatment has its particular short and long term side effects, they may overlap.
Clarity on the reference to ‘short’ term and ‘long’ term may be helpful. ‘Short’ term side effects implies a duration of weeks and months. Whereas, ‘long’ term side effects refers to may years or a life time. For example, risk of lymphedema is forever and surgical nerve damage can be permanent.
Your suggested poses and pranayama techniques to serve various side effects were innovative reflecting compassion and comprehension for the many facts and dense material in Module #2.
Hormone therapy comes with many confusing side effects, like hot flashes and weight gain concerns. Obviously sun salutations and Warrior poses address the latter. However, managing hot flaches simultaneously can present a problem for the student and yoga teacher. The best resolve is alternating between energetic and cooling (resting) asanas, such as legs-up-the-wall. Which for some can be energically challenging to get into. But once there provides an open, cooling experience.
Depression and fatigue are common side effects and challenging to find yogic solutions. Using the powerful and confidence building Warrior II Pose to treat depression is an excellent example of a solution. I love this because it demonstrates that the yoga teacher is not coddling and instead offering a suggestion that shifts the energy from inside to outside.
As for fatigue, it may surprise some to learn recent research gives strong evidence that exercise is the prescription for fatigue when undergoing cancer treatments. This does not mean that the suggestion of rest and restorative yoga is bad, but rather moderate exercise like yoga shifts the fatigue feeling quickly and helps to energize:
“In a recent analysis, University of Connecticut researchers pooled the results of 44 separate randomized controlled trials covering more than 3,000 fatigued patients with various types of cancer. Those who exercised experienced higher energy levels and reported significant reductions in their cancer-related fatigue compared to control subjects who did not exercise. This was particularly true for older patients who engaged in moderate-intensity resistance training (strength-building exercises such as lifting weights). Older patients in fact experienced greater reductions in fatigue than younger ones. Furthermore, the more intense the exercise program, the greater the improvements in energy levels.” (Source: http://awomanshealth.com/cancer-survivorship-fatigue/)
Read similar research here: Cramp F, Byron-Daniel J. Exercise for the management of cancer-related fatigue in adults. The Cochrane Library. Published online November 14, 2012. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD006145.pub3
Tthis assignment was the first step in applying this knowledge of the science of cancer to yoga. The next step leads us to the study of the science behind yoga.
Keep up the good work- please save these assignments for use later as you begin to build class sequences addressing specific treatments and side effects.