Supportive Care for Cancer: Case Brief for Daily Yoga
by Jido Lee Ferguson
Sharon (not her real name) walked into the conference room. "Is this the individual yoga class for cancer survivors?" she asked. I responded yes, and after introductions, she shared her story. She had been treated for cancer two years earlier, but still suffered pain and stress that interrupted her sleep too often. She wanted to find out whether yoga could help her return to a full life.
During the same time period when Sharon had been diagnosed and treated, I had been preparing to serve as a therapeutic yoga teacher. Transitioning through a period of unemployment, I had searched for alternative ways to use my time.
Now, through a cancer treatment center, I was meeting with individuals like Sharon, demonstrating how doing yoga regularly can reduce stress, build strength, and result in more resilience and better, more restful sleep. In the second of our eight meetings, I introduced Sharon to a simple yoga warmup series. She began to do fifteen minutes of daily personal practice of movement, breath control, and meditation.
Though I had practiced yoga occasionally during my adult years, it had never occurred to me that I might teach, let alone coach other people to practice. Until, that is, I received a gift: a weekend of yoga classes in a beautiful resort that gave me a taste of healing change, and I soon felt a need to share the experience.
I began a daily practice of yoga and found a source of energy and well-being. But maintaining practice also has its challenges. As I looked for support, I found Niroga Institute, with its aims of widely increasing access to yoga practice. I joined their thirty-day program to deepen mine. This was followed by yoga teacher training and now I'm enrolled in Niroga's two-year course in yoga therapy.
Sometimes transformative change occurs as a result of our decisions, other times as a result of forces outside us shaping us into what the world needs at the moment. When a personal decision to change and the world's needs coincide, strong forces can be set in motion. This applies not only to my own recent experience, but to both cancer treatment and the field of yoga therapy.
Medical treatments for cancer and a number of other conditions have changed in the past twenty years. As treatments evolve, doctors more often refer people to supportive care services, such as acupuncture, massage, and yoga. Research indicates that yoga, for one, has many measurable benefits for people who have a cancer diagnosis. As a result of such evidence, yoga therapy has recently developed into a field of healing practice.
Working with me, Sharon developed her own yoga practice, an hour a day. She credits yoga with greatly reducing her stress and pain and improving her sleep patterns.
When asked for a few words describing her experience, she said,
"Very helpful in reducing pain and feeling better. Less pain, helps ease stress. "