Yoga for Women Cancer Survivors Marks 5-Year Anniversary

On Sunday, September 7, 2014, Yoga for Women Cancer Survivors celebrated a milestone: on the first September Sunday five years ago, Circle Yoga hosted the first ever Yoga for Women Cancer Survivors class in Washington, D.C.

Adapted to the unique needs of women cancer survivors – to whom teacher Amy Dara affectionately refers as Warrior Women – this gentle yoga class provides coping tools for the emotional and physical challenges of the battle with this disease. There is no pressure to do anything that doesn’t feel right on a particular day – Amy Dara puts those too weak and fatigued to move into a restorative pose and checks on them while continuing the active portion of the class. These students come for one of the biggest benefits of this class: the nurturing, supportive community formed by the Warrior Women in a safe space.

Over the years, this class has been home to longtime survivors and new cancer patients seeking a positive community with others who understand what they’ve been through or are currently going through. Many Warrior Women are fortunate to have their cancer go into remission and attend other yoga classes, returning to the Yoga for Women Cancer Survivors classes when dealing with recurrence anxiety or when a long-term side effect flares up.photo 2 copy

The Warrior Women’s age ranges from college to retirement. Many juggle their cancer treatment with full-time employment and wife/mother/caregiver duties. While the majority has been diagnosed with breast cancer, some Warrior Women have battled various other types of cancer. Some had a tumor that had been removed and that was it. Some have been undergoing treatment on and off for years for metastatic cancer that goes in and out of remission. Many lie in between these two extremes, having received some combination of chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, bone marrow transplant, targeted therapy, and participation in clinical trials. Regardless of all this, Yoga for Women Cancer Survivors provides a safe, nurturing oasis where they can take time out for themselves in the same space with others who understand what it’s like.

The community has grown to include a bimonthly newsletter, quarterly gatherings, and fundraisers such as bake sales and Yoga on the Steps for Living Beyond Breast Cancer. Yoga for Women Cancer Survivors classes meets four times a week at three venues in Upper Northwest Washington, D.C., including one Super Gentle Chair Yoga class.

The Warrior Women and Amy Dara are deeply grateful to Circle Yoga Cooperative, lil omm yoga, and Sibley Memorial Hospital for enabling Yoga for Women Cancer Survivors to take place within their warm, welcoming community. We are also grateful to fellow teachers Catherine Syron, Joyce Craig, and Erika Newell for occasionally subbing for Amy Dara. These three became certified through the Yoga 4 Cancer Teacher Training hosted by Circle Yoga in 2012, in which Amy Dara assisted her teacher, Tari Prinster.

Additionally, the Washington, D.C. Warrior Women will soon have a sister community in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. Last June, Amy Dara trained four certified yoga teachers, who will start three new classes, including one at Canvi, in early October 2014. The next Yoga for Women Cancer Survivors Teacher Training will take place in Barcelona over two consecutive weekends in March 2015. It is open to certified yoga teachers worldwide. In conjunction with this teacher training, Amy Dara has been researching, writing, and updating a manual containing a wealth of information based on clinical studies that will become available for purchase online in the near future.

© 2014 Amy Dara Hochberg. All rights reserved.

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