Life doesn't stop when you have cancer. Beyond the physical pain and toll it takes on your body, anxiety, fear and restlessness are real possibilities. Survivors are turning to YCat: Yoga Therapy in Cancer and Chronic Illnesses for alternatives to settle their mind and body. This nationally-recognized program is tailored to cancer treatment for the perfect mix of gentle stretching and mindfulness.
For 50-year old Melissa Mohr, it is the solution for the fatigue, pain and anxiety of a nearly four-year battle with Stage IIIc ovarian cancer and other complications. She has had multiple treatments and surgeries, but this recent round was especially grueling.
"Everything was piling on. Fatigue and pain are part of chemo, but this time the fatigue was overwhelming," Melissa says. She began working with Tina Walter, our certified cancer yoga therapist, in January 2017, and immediately felt calmer and less fatigued after the first breathing-focused session.
YCat sessions are free and part of our goal to transform the way healthcare is provided with individualized, integrated care. Tina creates programs tuned to the needs of each person, concentrating on breathing, mindfulness and gentle stretching while seated in a chair, receiving chemotherapy treatments.
"This isn't bendy pretzel yoga. It's more about advanced yoga breath and using your mind for healing. Our thoughts serve our body. I talk to and listen to patients," Tina explains. She spent three years focused on adapting yoga for cancer survivors, during the required YCat certification program.
"You are focusing on one specific thing at a time. My mind was totally clear," Melissa remembers. "You have to give yourself permission to focus on yourself and breathing. You can let go, even if it's just for a few minutes."
Countless survivors across the nation have benefitted from YCat. A three-month study on the impact of yoga and 200 breast cancer survivors, as detailed in The Journal of Clinical Oncology, noted positive improvement for inflammation, mood and fatigue. We conducted our own YCat study from October 2015 to November 2016 with 152 patients, showing statistically significant improvement in pain, anxiety, fatigue and distress. Our study notes overall benefits including:
- Decreased anxiety and depression
- Reduced muscle tension/increased flexibility and range of motion
- Promoted self-healing
- Improved overall health, feeling of well-being
- Improved sleep
For the last two years, Tina and our Cancer Center team have helped hundreds create tailored programs and shown practical ways to practice at home. She reminds patients repetition is necessary for the best results.
"You are training your nervous system and patterns of thought," Tina says. "Because of the natural fight or flight instinct, we are conditioned to have musculature to run out of a burning building. That isn't really happening, but we are still tense and muscles are firing."
A cancer diagnosis can trigger months of fight or flight stress with variety of physical and emotional impacts. YCat alleviates the stress and helps survivors through the pain and emotions. Melissa has discovered that taking a few minutes of focused "me" time every day, helps her fight against cancer, and her enjoy life with her two daughters and three grandchildren.
"When you have cancer, movement can be really intimidating. But this (YCat) is so much more. People should understand it will be whatever you need. It has helped me tremendously" Melissa shares.
We offer two kinds of yoga therapy at no cost to patients. The first is a free, weekly yoga class for people undergoing cancer treatment and into survivorship. The second is individual yoga therapy sessions during chemotherapy treatments. Click to learn more about both these yoga options or call 513-585-4002.