Sunday, September 2, 2012

Tip #36: Practice Yoga

Lately, yoga is on fire. There are plenty of references on the web about the health benefits of practicing yoga (for flexibility, strength, better posture, better breathing, heart disease, concentration, mood, etc.). It is even recommended by the American Cancer Society, because it can "lower stress, increase strength, and provide a good form of exercise." You can also see an increased interest in the medial profession about it. According to, in 2001 there were 38 published studies about yoga. By 2011 that number had grown to 227.

I had tried yoga several times over the years. Sometimes, the location was not convenient, others it would be at the wrong times. The last time I tried, about three years ago, I was doing great and really loving it, when my back and right arm started giving me lots of problems (which I learned six months later had been caused by the metastases in the bones in those areas) which made me stop. All in all, I kept being intrigued by it, and I knew there had to be something there for me. Thus, after my second diagnosis I actually looked for programs that would offer yoga and/or mediation because I needed something urgently to calm my mind. I'm extremely thankful that my own hospital has a great program, the Swim Across the Sound, which provides cancer patients with many needed things including amazing yoga classes. I remember when I went to my first class, I actually could not stop crying, because everything was overwhelming and here was a group of very nice ladies that were being so extremely kind to me, even though they didn't know who I was (and vice-versa). This was called chair-yoga, extra gentle, and it really helped me mentally more than physically, at the beginning, which is what I needed. I was also lucky in that a local yoga studio, Yoga for Everybody, donated a room for the yoga for our  cancer program, so now I actually I'm able to do yoga in a regular yoga studio (instead of the hospital), with my cancer/survivors/super heroes buddies, led by our beloved Susan Kiley. This yoga is a step up from the chair-yoga, but it's still gentle. Because I had been feeling really well (no more pain in my arm or back), I decided to push myself a bit this summer and I signed up for the studio 30 day unlimited yoga for $30, a really great deal for anyone who wants to try yoga. I really used it too, going to about four classes a week. I have to say, I loved them all and I really liked how I felt. Now, I keep doing my weekly yoga for cancer patients, plus I have added about 12 minutes a day, five days a week, of a TV program I record from my PBS station, Priscilla Yoga Stretches. It is therapeutic yoga (hatha yoga) and, although I cannot do all the poses, I think they still help me with posture and flexibility. I hope I can keep up with it now that the semester has started.

And, as I would like to nudge you to do some yoga, let me show these two videos that show the remarkable effects yoga can have. The first one is from the creator of the website MindBodyGreen:

And, you probably have already seen the second one, as it was very popular a couple of months ago (and just saw that it has almost 6,000,000 views! Wow!). I love it so much, I think it is fine to see it many times. The power of the human spirit, with the help this time of yoga, it's incredible.

I do believe yoga has made my life, my body, my mind and my spirit, better. How has it helped you?