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Yoga For Women Recovering From Breast Cancer At Tuen Mun Hospital

“I feel more comfortable after doing yoga. It helps to relieve the body aches from [chemo] treatments. That’s why I came today, even though my body is still quite sore from the recent chemo.”Kam, yoga program participant

By Foster Barnes
THURSDAY, 14/08/2014. Breast cancer is the most common kind of cancer for women worldwide. In Hong Kong alone, breast cancer among women has tripled from 1993 to 2011. Today, about nine women a day in Hong Kong are diagnosed with breast cancer. Cancer, treatments and procedures not only exact a devastating toll on the physical body, they also causes a great deal of emotional and mental stress.

AYC believes that yoga therapy can help restore movement, ease pain, heal the body, and calm the mind as women recover from breast cancer and breast cancer treatments. In fact, Master Yogananth Andiappan is currently working on his Ph.D. Thesis titled, “The Effects of Yoga Therapy on Breast Cancer.” As part of his research and study, he has designed yoga sequences especially for women in the process of recovering from breast cancer. He also leads two yoga therapy classes each week at Anahata Yoga centre for women who suffer from the disease.

As an extension of Master Yogananth’s compassionate service to survivors of breast cancer, his community of volunteers — the Andiappan Yoga Community (AYC) — has recently resumed a yoga therapy program aimed at supporting the recovery of breast cancer patients at Tuen Mun Hospital (TMH). AYC Volunteer Wendy Lam was instrumental in reactivating this program.

Wendy — a 500-hour International Yoga Academy-certified yoga instructor and scholarly academic — has been working with cancer patients for the past 13 years. Her unique combination of yoga training, rigorous academic research, and work with cancer patients inspired her to “explore if yoga practice can help to alleviate the physical symptoms experienced by cancer patients.”

According to Wendy, “The physical symptom stress is one of the most common complaints by many cancer patients.” So in an effort to share the benefits of yoga, she helped start the original yoga program for cancer patients at Tuen Mun hospital.

Her observations concluded that, “Yoga practice helped these patients to build self-confidence in managing the physical symptoms and thereby improve their overall well-being.”

Wendy is now a volunteer teacher with Anahata’s Saturday class for recovering breast cancer patients. Furthermore, she paved the way for a new group of AYC volunteers to join and resume the yoga program at TMH which had been on hold until very recently.

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Today, Irene Lai — certified in Anahata’s Ayurveda and Yoga Therapy Teacher Training program — is the project leader for the yoga program for women recovering from breast cancer at TMH. Irene, assisted by AYC Volunteer Heike Stein — who is also a graduate of Anahata’s Ayurveda and Yoga Therapy Teacher Training program — reactivated the course at TMH that began on Thursday, 26/06/2014.

Every six weeks a new group of women are rotated into this introductory course. On 12/07/2014, AYC volunteer and veteran teacher Ivy Yip began teaching the second round of classes at TMH. Ivy was one of the pioneer teachers from the original program, so AYC was delighted she could rejoin the program.

AYC Volunteer Luisa Ku — also a graduate of Anahata’s Ayurveda and Yoga Therapy Teacher Training program — joined Ivy as a teacher’s assistant. Both Heike and Luisa have been valuable assets to the program, adjusting the participants as needed, making sure each student had the blocks and straps necessary for their classes, as well as helping to develop the standardized AYC Feedback form.

In fact, the feedback from the program has been very positive. Program participant Kam says, “I feel more comfortable after doing yoga. It helps to relieve the body aches from [chemo] treatments. That’s why I came today, even though my body is still quite sore from the recent chemo.”

Bingo says, “My muscles are relaxed after class. Living in Hong Kong is stressful. I think yoga suits Hong Kong’s lifestyle very much.”

And Lily comments, “I feel very relaxed after class and can sleep well in the evening. I really like yoga. The shoulder stretching poses help me a lot!”

It is rewarding to see women recovering from breast cancer experience the benefits of yoga. We believe in the benefits of yoga and, after all, that is why we teach.

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If you would like to participate in AYC’s yoga program for women recovering drom breast cancer at Tuen Mun Hospital, please contact us at info@yogacommunity.org

Note: Potential candidates must have completed Anahata’s Ayurveda and Yoga Therapy Teacher Training program, complete the hospital’s approved Infection Control Course, and preferably a Cantonese-speaking female.

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