(This article first appeared in the April 12, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)
My typical response to participating in a yoga class is “Namaste out of it.” However, it’s hard to argue yoga’s multitude of benefits, such as increased flexibility, muscle strength, circulatory health, and injury protection (among many others) that come with the practice.
Introducing a ground-breaking program on the East End that offers yoga classes to those battling cancer.
Yoga, unlike some other physical activities, can be for everyone including cancer patients. Yoga geared for those touched by cancer aims to increase lymphatic flow in order to optimize the immune system.
A primary difference between the practice for those with the ailment and those of healthier bodies is that many breast cancer patients practicing yoga have undergone a mastectomy or biopsy. This causes scarring of the breast tissue, which can cause stress when doing yoga poses such as downward facing dog or headstands.
As bone density could be lower in cancer patients, these classes alleviate pressure on the neck by keeping the head up.
Eric Pettigrew has been teaching yoga for 20 years and is a master trainer for Y4C (yoga 4 cancer), a program created by Tari Prinster. In addition, Pettigrew participates in the integrative therapy program Urban Zen and collaborates with the non-profit, Fighting Chance.
Through The Ellen Hermanson Foundation he also holds yoga at Southampton Hospital free of charge every Wednesday at 10:15 AM in the wellness center.
“We gain a sense of self of the body, to reconnect with balance . . . the benefit is to be joined, to be in a group. To know that you’re not alone . . . that there’s other people like you. You can go out of your house, to move and to feel good about yourself,” Pettigrew affirmed.
The groups maintain a compassionate dynamic through the essential core commonality of the disease.
Yoga Shanti in Sag Harbor offers a complimentary Therapeutic Yoga for Cancer class described as “yoga for hope, health, and healing.” Pettigrew and fellow instructor Hilary Chasin teach a class on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:30 to 3:45 PM. All classes average 10 to 15 people during off-season with more during the warmer months. Through the energized movement of these yoga classes, the form is gentle but works to increase blood flow, with a restorative cool down.
On Sundays at 2:30 PM a class is offered at Ananda Wellness Yoga in Southampton. The class is sponsored by Fighting Chance and is with intructor Karen Meyer.
As with any fitness routine, and with any individual body, strength is achieved through practice. Being healthy is about mentality as well as capability, and through that we all have the ability to achieve goals.
Who knows, maybe the next time someone asks me to take a yoga class I’ll remember all of the inspiring patients taking the step to better their lives and roll out the mat.