Yoga for healing and wellness during and after cancer is not just for adults. Being a certified Yoga 4 Cancer (Y4C) teacher has not only empowered me in my own healing and wellness, but has also allowed me to help others, too. A couple of years ago, I was asked to organize and lead a yoga class for pediatric cancer survivors and their families.
Mindful breathing, yoga and stress management of great benefit in coping with a cancer diagnosis, no matter the age. Mindfulness breathing and relaxation techniques can help decrease feelings of anxiety and stress when undergoing procedures, coping with pain, and awaiting news of recent blood work or other testing. I learned that most of my pediatric peers had leukemia and I would need to use special concern when offering weight-bearing poses due to potential complications impacting bone density and strength. Medications and the leukemia itself can weaken bones. The good news is there are many ways to modify yoga for pediatric cancer survivors, including using a wall or chair for support and offering a variation of seated or supine poses.
I was able to find an incredible evidence-based resource from the University of Calgary when doing the research for my class. The Yoga Thrive Manual which is free and available online was a great support in when preparing for my class. The program detailed in the manual offers practices to promote wellness during and after childhood cancer treatment. At my pediatric yoga class, I offered participants the link to the program.
Poses in yoga ideally want to give a feeling of relaxation, but also offer a way to build strength, promote bone and organ health, and build balance and flexibility. The benefits also target the concerns of obesity or weight gain, which can be a side effect from decreased energy and physical activity.
Precautions need to be taken into consideration, and anyone undergoing a new physical activity should first consult their specialist. But with thanks to resources such as Yoga Thrive, there are readily available resources that can help parents practice supportive poses both for themselves and children with cancer.
I offer this article in recognition of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and the lovely mother who, with tears in her eyes stated, "I had no idea I could practice yoga with my daughter." My hope is that more parents and caregivers find the potential gift of yoga a support to our pediatric peers in their healing and wellness.
The link for the Yoga Thrive Youth Manual and the great work the University of Calgary has done can be found at https://www.ucalgary.ca/healthandwellnesslab/yty-manual.