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Yoga for Cancer

Yoga for Cancer

Yoga for Cancer

I started my yoga practice because I had nerve damage. My foot had been bent backwards and smashed. I couldn’t walk. I was so shocked that I loved the study of yoga. I had tried it once in college and thought it was weird. But, once I had real pain, and a real desire not to take medicine for it, I realized what a gift this was for me. I soon found myself studying to become a teacher. Quickly after I graduated, so many people heard my story, I started meeting people who had car accidents, and cancer and numerous other problems. It quickly became clear: I needed to study more. I wanted so much to support others in the way that yoga had supported me.

I love offering yoga for people who are in cancer treatment, and for people who have recently completed their treatments. For me, it is a chance for others to experience the same relief I experienced when I realized I was going to be able to handle what was happening to my body. Moving from a feeling of being at the mercy of others into a place of knowing what I wanted to do next was huge for me.

What is yoga therapy like? When I support people who are in cancer treatment, I combine gentle movement that is specific to the needs of the body, with support for the mind and emotions. What I find is that when people are dealing with cancer, so much of all our other problems come into sharp focus. The care for the kids, the need to maintain social ties (and dealing with how they have changed), the desire to do things that aren’t yet available for whatever reason - financial or other - all of this can become so much more important and truly challenging to manage. Yoga therapy helps us to simplify, address what we can, and do so in ways that we value. I have seen people improve their relationships with family and co-workers. I have seen people begin to ask for what they need and feel more connected to others. I have seen people come to accept difficult relationships. All of this is just a natural part of learning yogic methods for calming the mind and body as we accept the process and move through it, together.

What is real, and really matters in your life comes into very sharp focus during times of challenge. I love to be the support to help when the person doesn’t want to be asked any questions. There are definitely days like that for anyone, but when chemo starts to affect the person, yoga allows us to just let it go, and find relaxation and ease. Maybe one day it is just about getting a deeper sense of rest. Maybe another day what is needed is the chance to listen to gorgeous music and experience that we can be in community without talking. Sometimes, people really want to talk about a worry that has been on the mind. The body has its own wisdom, and yoga gives us a chance to honor that.

I offer practices to help the mind calm, and let go of the stresses around chemo brain. We share what are called mantras and mudras, these are little sounds and hand movements which help connect us to our own needs in the moment without having to think so hard. We also do physical movements with the rest of the body to help create a sense of ease on those days when we feel itchy or fidgety. We find ways to help the body release tension, and keep our strength. We get in touch with the needs of the day, and do what is needed to care for whatever arises. Yoga takes what we are and what we enjoy, and helps it to blossom into healing practices.

As an Ayurvedic Practitioner, I love being able to offer additional types of support, too. Sometimes we talk about food choices, or the need to be in nature and soak in the beauty of the day. Sometimes, we need to just simplify and find something - that one thing - that we can enjoy. There is so much available to use for healing. I love to learn about favorite activities of the people I work with and help to incorporate these into our work together whenever possible. Finding what brings joy and ease becomes a guiding principle.

People have different needs as they walk with their own disease processes. One person may find healing as they get better. One person may find healing as they move into greater ease with the dying process. In the whole of things, a yoga therapist is there to walk with you.

To be one present person who listens without an agenda, unless you want me to have one. Sometimes the greatest need of the day is getting help with phone calls to doctors, or contacting family members for the person. I have helped people create email lists so they can send one letter to many people, rather than 20. I have helped people find the person to direct all the calls to, so they can rest without the phone ringing.

The yoga sutras say that practice of yoga is effort towards steadiness of mind. Yoga is a wide range of practices that can be used to help us let go of the struggle with what is. What we learn is that we are so much more capable and supported than we realized. We find just how wide and various our strengths are. I love to learn how individual people can be as I serve the cancer community and others. This service, for me, deepens my own connection to the community, and the value of my practice. I love to support people in helping the body restore itself, and accept itself in all its many ways of being.

To me, the practice of yoga means nothing if it cannot address the truly important moments in our lives. I love getting the chance to watch yoga move and change and go with the flow to meet the needs of each of the people in front of me.

My approach is most definitely not cookie cutter.

If you or someone you know if going through cancer or another life changing experience, let me know how I can serve you by contacting me at 906-251-0032. - Dharmini