Cancer Conscious Yoga

with Connie Walsh

Svarupe is mentioned often throughout Patanjali's sutras, from the third sutra to the very last sutra. It means 'to be established in one's own true form'. Even in the prime of our health, most of us struggle to know who we are, but when you top that with a chaotic, incomprehensible entity inside of ourselves, such as cancer, it takes our search for some type of internal ease or peace onto another level.

People will respond in different ways when faced with a diagnosis of cancer. Some manage to turn it into a transforming experience, others find themselves living with a deep struggle. The landscape of cancer is in a constant state of change, with new diagnostic techniques and new treatment protocols being implemented. How can we, as teachers, help make a practice accessible and relevant before, during and after cancer treatments?

One of my favourite quotes on teaching is from Kahlil Gibran: 'No man can reveal to you aught but that which already lies half asleep in the dawning of your knowlege'. This quote ties in nicely with the concept of svarupe, in relation to taittiriya upanisad: that as humans we already have everything within. Our responsibility as teachers is to create a safe space for our students to be able to unveil the obstacles that prevent them seeing what already lies within. The more we understand, the more discerning and intuitive we become regarding what teachings are most suitable for the individual.

Cancer is a complex condition and it is wise for the yoga teacher to have an appreciation of the condition, the treatments and side effects and how to keep abreast of what is recommended by the cancer professionals. The Cancer Conscious Course we will deliver in 2016, will be facilitated by an oncology nurse, who is also a psychotherapist, and a yoga teacher who is also a nurse. We will also have input from a physiotherapist who specialises in cancer rehabilitation.

Course Contents

The contents of the course include the effects of cancer on our physical / psychological / spiritual dimensions. We will learn what cancer is, how prevalent it is and how effective treatments are. We will give examples of asana - when and why it is releveant to develop strength, stamina and flexibility appropriately. We will explore safe breathing and meditative techniques. We will address side effects such as insomnia, anxeity, fatigue and pain. We will discuss considerations regarding compromised skin, muscle and organ tissues, the risk of infection, lymphodema, osteoporosis and the risk of recurrence. We will address the deeper resources needed to be present to those whose prognosis may be terminal. We will give information on suitable resources to continue and deepen your understanding of cancer and its effects.

Course Structure

The course structure is modelled on the ancient taittiriya upanisad' panchamaya. Our focus on cancer and its impact is considered through the dimensions of love, creativity, comprehension, energy and matter, which together comprise panchamaya. By using this model we consider our student's expansive qualities and create a sacred environment, encouraging svarupe to reveal itself so the yoga students may become awake and established in their true essence.