Yoga class helps minds, bodies and souls of cancer patients

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by JANET ST. JAMES / WFAA

khou.com

Posted on February 7, 2012 at 11:56 AM

Updated Tuesday, Feb 7 at 11:56 AM

FORT WORTH, Texas — At Baylor All-Saints Medical Center, yoga is not typical cancer therapy.

But Dr. Lori Atkins thinks it should be.

"Something as simple as taking a breath and opening the chest can make a difference in somebody's healing," said Atkins, an obstetrician and gynecologist. "And that they can believe that they can heal and see the changes in their own body are incredible for their healing process."

Atkins started a weekly yoga class inside a meeting room in the Joan Katz Breast Center on the hospital's main floor as a prescription for cancer patients. Male and female patients with all types of cancer are invited to attend.

The ancient practice has long been used to reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure and ease sore muscles, among other reported health benefits.

It's a gentle exercise, considered good for the mind and body.

"Chemo can cause a little imbalance," said Susanna Gorski, one of the Yoga for Cancer instructors. "Yoga can bring you back into your ground, where you can feel your feet. It's easier on the joints than a lot of exercises are."

Cheryl Nason, a cancer patient still recovering from surgery, enjoys the workouts. "It helps you with the discomfort," she said. "Because it allows you to move your muscles, it allows you to stretch your body."

Nason is using yoga to open her chest, which is tight after a double mastectomy and now tissue expanders.

The Katz yoga class is offered in partnership with Indigo Yoga.

Though the Yoga for Cancer class is not offered across North Texas, those affiliated with the Katz program hope more medical experts and yoga instructors will take notice, and consider starting their own classes.

"Through yoga I feel in control," said Kristi Evans, a new cancer survivor who had never taken yoga before the class. "I feel strong just being in a room full of the most courageous women who are in different phases of their journey. And seeing them exercise and laugh and just live is just the best, the best support group."

And it's with this support that these women say they are gaining the mind and body — and now soul connection —  to survive.

E-mail jstjames@wfaa.com

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