Monday, September 30, 2013

Yoga 4 Cancer Teacher Training

"Don't you already teach yoga to people with cancer?" My son asked me when I told him I was leaving for the weekend to attend the Y4C training.

"Yes," I replied, and added with a cavalier attitude, "I'm going just to get the certificate, so that I can say that I'm trained; I'm not expecting to get much out of it."

Ha. What arrogance!

This program is founded and led by Tari Prinster, a yoga instructor (and cancer survivor) who you may have seen in the movie, Yogawoman. The first thing Tari did was ask us to examine our biases about cancer, those who have cancer and yoga. At the end of our training, she asked us to revisit these beliefs and notice if any of them changed.

She went on to explain how the body naturally defends itself against cancer, what cancer is, and specifically what our yoga practices are doing to the body. She does this in a way that is easy to understand, but with enough information that even the scientists in the group learned something new.

Once we had a clue and could visualize what was happening in our bodies with cancer cells and our yoga practices, Tari went into greater detail about treatments and side effects that might be experienced.

I spent a lot of time remembering students who had set down their mats in my class with the hope of feeling some sense of normalcy and relief. I nodded along with the discussions and offered what I knew, still thinking of myself as an authority.

That all changed on the second weekend of the training...

Tari had us step into the role of a cancer survivor, using various everyday items to help us feel what it is like to have extra weight, tightness from surgery, limited range of motion from reconstruction, swelling loss of sensation, or other short and long-term side effects. After we giggled at how silly we all looked, we began to practice yoga in a class that she led.

From the very first cue to raise my now-limited-arm, I felt a difference. I struggled to make my body move as I expected, but it was like swimming through cake batter; my movements were slow, difficult and my depth perception felt off. My mind ordered my arm to a certain place in space, but when I looked at it, my limb was in a different spot.

Within the first 10 minutes, I noticed how much harder it was to breathe and I was very warm, even though we had only done some gentle movements on the floor.

As we moved through the class, more students came to mind. I thought of the students who show up, week after week, even though their limitations are formidable. I thought of the ones who no longer come - some because they are no long here, and others I assume because they have moved on.

I sent my wishes for the well being of all of them with every labored exhale. By the end of the class, I was in awe of them. We were all speechless.

You can't really understand another person's experience until you've walked a mile in their shoes.

I knew their experiences with my head, but I didn't understand with my heart until I took this training. I'm so happy that I did, and will be ever grateful to Tari for handing me this particular pair of shoes.


  • Share my blog with others, and invite them to sign up. This is one of the best ways I have to get news out to you all!
  • Starting THIS WEEK: Thursday 9am Yoga for Cancer Survivorship classes with Linda Toenskoetter at Cancer CAREpoint Resource Center. This is the latest of their 3 weekly yoga classes for cancer survivors!
  • Remember, if you can't make it to class, you can always pop in my DVD, Healing Yoga for Wellness, available online at and, and in stores at Breathe Los Gatos, Pacific Healing Arts, Cancer CAREpoint resource center, East West Bookshop and Kaiser Mind-Body-Wellness center.