Yoga Therapy Across the Cancer Care Continuum

  • Describes the unique emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual experiences of people at each stage of the cancer care continuum, including diagnosis, acute treatment, no evidence of disease/living with chronic disease, recurrence and end of life, and the responsive support offered by individualized yoga practices.
  • Explains the biology of cancer and the challenges associated with type and stage of malignancy, as well as adverse side effects of conventional treatment (surgery, radiation, immunotherapy, hormone therapy, targeted therapy, and hematopoietic stem cell transplant), comorbid health conditions, and their impact on the whole person, mind, body, and soul.
  • Shares the unique perspective of 40 oncology yoga therapists with exceptional expertise working with diverse cancer populations in academic medical centers, hospitals, clinics, studios, in-home, and via-telehealth; clinical experience and scientific research that highlights relative contraindications and clinical “pearls”.
  • Explores a unique model of yoga therapy that is informed by ancient yoga philosophy and modern biomedical research, reinforced by skillful and compassionate therapeutic relationship, intelligent yoga practice, and the tender-hearted humanity of co-regulation and resourcing for both patient/client and therapist.
  • Highlights practical and professional considerations for yoga therapists and yoga teachers working in cancer, including scope of practice, informed consent, safety considerations and contraindications, liability insurance, waivers, clinical notes, co- assessments, and essential referrals to allied health care professionals; integrating yoga therapy into healthcare.
  • Acknowledges disparity and inequity in cancer care worldwide and advocates for inclusive, safe, and accessible yoga for all people impacted by cancer.
  • Calls for the integration of yoga therapy into standard oncology care; discussing barriers, obstacles, and suggestions for next steps.

Yoga is a time-honored mind-body practice originating in ancient India. The teachings are shared with honor and utmost respect. Yoga Therapy Across the Cancer Care Continuum is essential reading for all oncology professionals interested in yoga as an evidence-informed therapeutic intervention to improve the lives of people with cancer, including physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, physical therapists, psychologists, social workers, acupuncturists, yoga therapists and yoga teachers, and all allied health professionals – as well as people with cancer and survivors, their families, and caregivers.

Embodied oncology care diagram

“Here in the infusion room, in the clinic, in the studio, in our client’s living room, we come together, therapist and client. With an approach akin to entering Rumi’s field (Rumi & Barks 2005), we meet in non-judgmental and welcoming space. In the beginnings of compassionate inquiry, a gossamer trust is stitched, guided not by scrutiny, but by wonder. In a slow and imperfect sidestep off the fast-moving path of tests and treatment, here is time and space, a resonant receptive calm, a warm presence, a skillful containment and a slow reach for gentle understanding. Together we pick up each trouble tenderly and hold it up to the light. With generous listening and attuned heart-led dialogue, we sift last night’s sleeplessness, tomorrow’s fears, this moment’s thoughts and feelings through open hands. Nourished and unearthed by soft movement, breath and companionable silence, feelings and long-held beliefs find their way to the surface, and we listen anew.

Here is a place to doubt, to cry, to unveil a hidden anger or surprising joy; all are welcomed by genuine care and non-judgmental presence. Side-by-side now, in an affinity of connection, we hold possibilities for yogic practice in wide consideration, weighing all preferences, assessments, and evidence: reports, side effects, contraindications, lived experience, patterning, and lingering worries. Attuned to their role, the therapist looks beyond themselves, calling in treasured colleagues, stitching a wide net of care. A practiced therapist will draw on the knowledge needed to respond to each unique client – sometimes reaching back for supportive philosophy or a specific aspect of current research – all informing accessible yoga practice. This is steadying practice within the wider circle of uncertainty and life’s mysteries.”

⁣- Anne Pitman, Yoga Therapy Across the Cancer Care Continuum

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