Surviving cancer and thriving with yoga therapy
The instructor warmly greets class participants as they arrive for the weekly yoga therapy session. Quiet conversations give way to laughter and hugs as the room fills and they get ready for the class.
No matter their background or life journeys, they have one thing in common—a cancer diagnosis. They come to yoga to heal and strengthen their bodies from surgery and intensive cancer treatments. They seek connection with others who have shared experiences of a life-altering illness and to be in a supportive community during cancer treatment and recovery. “Yoga therapy is as important as any other treatment we receive,” said Tamara Vorderstrasse, a breast cancer survivor.
Legacy Cancer Institute offers Yoga for Individuals with Cancer as part of a range of integrative medicine services to help people during cancer treatment and recovery. “Integrative medicine is an approach to care that is relationship-based and focused on promoting healing and wellbeing of the whole person through a range of complementary therapies, not just treating the disease of the body,” said Cynthia Aks, D.O., breast surgeon with Legacy Medical Group-Surgical Oncology.
Yoga is a holistic approach that focuses on the intersections of body, mind and spirit. “Yoga has so many therapeutic benefits,” said Dr. Aks. “Yoga can reduce stress, enhance immunity, improve physical condition, and strengthen body systems that underlie physical health.”
Certified yoga therapist Patti Stone teaches the yoga therapy classes at Legacy Mount Hood and Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Centers. Her approach is based on the ancient Kosha model that addresses the whole person and the mind-body connection.
The yoga classes incorporate asana movements, breathing techniques and guided meditative. “The breathwork helps people relax and invites greater awareness about body sensation, feelings and thoughts,” said Stone.
The movements, or asanas, help strengthen the body and stimulate healing. “The physical body draws most of the attention when healing from illnesses like cancer,” said Stone. “The asanas also affect the subtle body systems—like the endocrine system—that can stimulate healing hormones and direct energies to where it’s needed to heal and combat cancer,” she said. The movements are gentle and mostly done in seated and supine positions to respect fragile bodies that are healing from surgery and treatments.
The guided meditative practice enhances mental awareness and the psycho-emotional dimension of our being. “Meditation helps connect with the wisdom body—our intuition—that is so crucial to healing with compassion for our self,” said Stone. “The quiet, meditative practice helps align our thoughts, feelings and intuition for greater sense of calm, and can help us rebuild trust in our body again,” she said. Meditation also touches the bliss dimension—our inner sense of joy and connection to our spirit and something greater than self. “Feeling bliss means learning to find moments of experience where we can appreciate a subtle sense of perfection in that instance of time,” said Stone.
The yoga participants come to heal bodies, recover and thrive. The social connections and friendships forged in the class provides support, bring hopes and builds resilience. Participant Susie Summers is a breast cancer survivor who has attended the yoga therapy class at Legacy Good Samaritan for 25 years. “The fact that I’m still here shows the power of yoga practice and this community to heal and help us survive,” said Summers. They stay because they are determined to carry on and celebrate life, no matter what.
Learn more about cancer prevention and treatments at American Cancer Society.
Photos 2 & 3: Yoga for Individuals with Cancer class participants at Legacy Good Samaritan.
Learn more about Mount Hood Medical Center Foundation's Integrative Medicine Center Campaign
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