There is growing evidence that Yoga can help cancer survivors recover from the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of treatment, as well as improve quality of life and well-being. Yoga for Cancer Survivors is the first widely-available set of DVDs based on this growing evidence.
The set contains seven 75-minute gentle Hatha Yoga sessions designed by Susi Hately for a research project directed by Nicole Culos-Reed, PhD, at the University of Calgary, Canada. Since 2002, the project has documented the benefits of gentle Yoga for cancer survivors, with participants reporting significant improvements in physical strength and function, mood, stress, and quality of life.
The seven sessions (titles below) each emphasize a different theme, but include a similar developing vocabulary of practices.
- Introducing the Basics
- Connecting to Your Body and Breath
- Developing Ease, Stability, Strength, and Flexibility
- Opening Your Heart and Chest
- Building Relaxed Resilience
- Experiencing Meditation in Motion
- Feeling What Your Body Wants
As a Yoga teacher who has worked with cancer survivors in a wide range of settings and stages, I know that there is great variability in what survivors will want or be able to do. Most DVDs and Yoga classes assume a certain level of strength and energy that not all cancer patients or survivors have. This DVD series stands out for its accessibility; the opening practice is gentle enough for just about anyone to do, even someone dealing with extreme treatment-related fatigue.
The practices do become progressively more active, including standing postures and gentle backbends, for example. But the entire seven-practice series would still be considered quite gentle by most teachers’ standards. Practices begin and end with relaxation, transitions are slow and mindful with many opportunities to rest in awareness of the body and breath, and the breath plays a central role throughout. Many standard postures are simplified to their key elements or modified, such as using the wall for support.
The production value of the DVDs is basic but elegant. The practices are modeled by one student in a studio space with a view of nature. The instructions are given in a clear, comforting voiceover. The overall feel of the DVDs, from content to production, is spacious and inviting in its simplicity.
This set of DVDs will be extremely useful for cancer survivors just beginning a Yoga practice, or those needing a more gentle practice than what is available in most DVDs, studios, and gyms. It is also an excellent resource for Yoga teachers and researchers interested in developing a program for cancer survivors. I believe the value of this DVD set goes beyond the cancer community; the DVDs would be appropriate for those with any chronic illness, including chronic pain, HIV/AIDs, or heart disease. They offer compassionate and intelligent practices that can help anyone befriend the body and rediscover a sense of inner well-being.
Published in International Journal of Yoga Therapy – 2009
DVD by Nicole Culos-Reed, PhD, and Susi Hately. YogaTHRIVE – Yoga for Cancer Survivors.
Set of 4 DVDs. $29.95.
Reviewed by Kelly McGonigal, PhD
Kelly McGonigal, PhD, is the editor in chief of the International Journal of Yoga Therapy and serves on the advisory board of Yoga Bear, a national nonprofit offering Yoga to cancer survivors in hospitals and Yoga studios.