Throughout the program, poses or sequences that are recommended for oncology yoga are explored, shared and discussed. They are often supported with assignments, quizzes and practicums. Samples below:
One is Eagle pose, often considered an advanced complex balance. However advanced, inherent benefits make it a wonderful choice for cancer survivors, If taught well, the results are many. Only some are lymph pumping, bone and muscle building, enhanced balance, focus, confidence and fun. Achieving these results is the result of detailed teaching.
Chill Out versus Child’s Pose
Child’s pose is considered the ‘resting’ pose of yoga. The needed break from downward dog or a ‘chaturanga’. The pose of comfort and relaxation… for some of us. But not for all.
In yoga4cancer classes, we don’t suggest Child’s Pose for resting because for many survivors this pose is actually not comfortable and can even be harmful. I know this might be surprising to some so let me explain:
- First, it requires a level of flexibility in the spine, hamstrings and feet, which cancer patients and survivors lack due to inexperience and / or return to exercise.
- Second, it puts pressure on the lower vertebrae that can be compromised due to chemotherapy & other treatments that weaken bones or osteoporosis.
- Third, cancer survivors can have sensitivity in the abdomen due to scar tissue, surgical sites, or even existing painful tumors.
- Finally, having the head below the heart restricts breath (to some extent) can feel claustrophobic, which is a particular point of sensitivity for cancer patients who may have often been required to hold breath and stillness in small spaces (MRI machine) for long periods of time during treatments or diagnostic tests.
For all these reasons, Child’s Pose is not necessarily relaxing or comforting, which defeats its purpose entirely. Of course, for some survivors, this pose is wonderfully relaxing and helpful. It’s just important for both yoga teachers AND the students to understand the potential challenges and modifications that can be done to make it comfortable for all.
Benefits for cancer patients and survivors undergoing cancer treatments includes: Improves lymphatic flow, reduces scar tissue from breast surgeries, increases heart rate and builds strength.