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Sun & Moon Yoga Studio is a place for people to experience and study hatha yoga. We believe in a holistic approach to the study of yoga, giving our students a well-rounded yoga education, bringing in teachers with an eclectic background of yoga.

We believe in combining alignment techniques of the body with breath techniques for calming and balancing the mind and the belief and faith that our work feeds us and is fed by the (spirit) Divine Universal Energy present in us all and in all things.

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Yoga: Healing People With Cancer By Noralea Dalkin, RYT

Recently I read an article—Relax, You Have Breast Cancer—by Pamela Coombes, BellaOnline.com’s Breast Cancer Editor. “You must think, boy, this lady is nuts,” said the article. I did not think she was nuts at all. The classes I teach for people with cancer are born of my first-hand experience with using yoga to help me heal from kidney cancer nine years ago.

First I’d like to differentiate between healing and curing. Curing could imply that we could go back to the way we were prior to being diagnosed with cancer. On the other hand, healing can mean that we come to terms with the way things are now. It is about accepting our current situation and knowing that it will change.

For most people, a cancer diagnosis and the ensuing treatments leave them feeling out of control, fatigued and often depressed—in other words, under stress. Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery leave patients feeling weak and often helpless. Because yoga is a thousands-year-old healing science that was meant to put an end to suffering, it is particularly well-suited to help people cope with those feelings. The ancient tools of asana (postures), pranayama (breath work) and meditation (yoga nidra, a deep relaxation technique), help students observe arising sensation, thoughts and emotions, and learn to stay in the present and not to worry about the past or the future.

As a way of centering at the beginning of each class, we learn breathing practices such as the three-part breath to help us relax, alternate nostril breathing to bring us to center and to balance energy, and a rapid breath to enhance energy. Correct breathing has been linked to stress reduction. Mindfulness of breathing is an essential tool of the yoga practice. The breath becomes ever present and available to anchor our attention in the present moment. Paying attention to the breath in any asana or movement reveals our level of exertion and helps us to move safely into and out of different postures. With each inhalation we expand and experience sensations of renewal. With each exhalation we learn to experience relief and release. Breathing out our tension can become a wonderful method of pain control.

The asana or movement portion of the class is consistently gentle and focused on necessary adaptations for each individual student. For example, while certain movements might be done lying on the stomach by some students, students with breast expanders who are uncomfortable on their stomachs can do similar movements standing or sitting in chairs.

To improve range of motion, we do gentle stretches and strength-building exercises. Every student is encouraged to be mindful of his or her body’s limitations and to listen to the body’s messages. If discomfort, tension, or anxiety is experienced the student is encouraged to be gentle with themselves and discontinue the practice. Mindful yoga has more to do with uniting our body, mind, and breath than it has to do with what the posture is or looks like. It is about non-doing and being where you are at this moment in time.

This approach to yoga makes it possible for those with a wide range of chronic conditions, including various levels of pain, to explore their range of motion and strength while looking at their limiting ideas of what they can and cannot do or be. It is often the fear of moving that creates our pain. A student recently told me that as she moved into a posture that she had never thought she could do, she became aware that she limited herself in many ways by thinking she could not do something.

From asana practice the class moves into a cool down period and finally into savasana, or deep relaxation. This mindful relaxation or period of meditation has many dimensions to explore. Entering a state of relaxation after movement allows the body to “remember” what it has learned and to recover. In order to reach a relaxed state we can enter through several doors. One point of entry to relaxation is to systematically relax each muscle group of the body. Guided imagery is another tool of entry, perhaps visualizing yourself descending a staircase into a wonderful place designed by you. Another day one might enter through a meditation practice. One way to do this is to watch the breath and to be present in the moment without any judgment. We watch our thoughts as if they were clouds floating in the sky on a beautiful spring day. Students are taught not attach to their thoughts, not to color them with judgments such as “I like this” and “I don’t like that,” “I need this,” and “I don’t want that,” or “this is good and that bad.” We simply let our minds become like mirrors and we watch what is happening, perhaps like a bird watching an occurrence from a high branch.

Many people think that meditation is tuning out to the realities of life to relieve stress. What we are talking about here is the opposite. It is about tuning into your experience. It is about embracing whatever is happening in your life. It is about experiencing your anger at having cancer and accepting it and moving on to enjoy what is right now, remembering that healing is about acceptance and letting go of stress.

There are many studies that tell us that people who are optimistic, grateful, and appreciative live longer and healthier lives. Yoga students routinely report that they leave class more relaxed, in a better frame of mind, and with more energy than they had when they entered the room. This is what I mean by healing.


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Last modified: Tuesday, 21-Aug-2007 23:20:15 EDT