Yoga class offers cancer patients and survivors a calming, gentle exercise

Cancer, Women's Care
Aug 7, 2019

Led by a cancer survivor, Yoga for Cancer Patients is a free class offered at St. Joseph’s/Candler

Cathy Baxter grew up playing sports and stayed active into adulthood. So when she got back on the treadmill after completing treatment for lymphoma, she thought everything would be fine. That was until she fell getting off the treadmill.

“I realized I needed to take it a little slower,” she says.

Cathy_BaxterCathy was introduced to yoga. She said yoga made her more in tune with her body than any sport she played previously. It keeps her in the best shape she’s ever been and mentally leaves her feeling happy.

Cathy wished she would have taken yoga during her cancer treatment. While that opportunity passed for her, she decided to help other cancer patients by teaching yoga. When she moved from Atlanta to Savannah nine years ago, she brought her Yoga for Cancer Patients class to St. Joseph’s/Candler.

Yoga is a form of exercise that includes breath control, stretching, simple meditation and the adoption of specific bodily postures.

Offered every Monday (except for holidays) from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., Yoga for Cancer Patients is a gentle form of yoga. The free class is designed for cancer patients going through treatment but many survivors continue to take the class. Cathy does recommend talking to your doctor before starting any workout routine.

The class begins with chair yoga. Cathy instructs participants gentle moves from the chair. Then, participants move to a mat on the floor to stretch the back. However, some choose to stay in the chair if it’s more comfortable.

That’s one great thing about yoga, Cathy says. It can be tailored to each individual at their own pace.

“Yoga to me is not competitive. It’s very much about doing what feels right for your body,” Cathy says. “We are stretching and moving. You can rotate your shoulders slowly or you can do big sweeping circular motions. Each person is in charge of their own body.”

Another great thing about yoga that benefits cancer patients is it is a calming form of exercise.

Cancer treatment often leaves patients fatigued. This can be frustrating in our fast-paced society. Yoga teaches breathing techniques to stay calm, while still keeping the body active.

“Yoga is a helpful way to teach yourself to calm your mind, calm your body and know it’s OK to be calm,” Cathy says. “You want to use most of your energy for healing, but you still need to keep the body moving. Yoga is a gentle way to be able to move the body and gets your blood flowing. It helps you stay healthy without wearing you out.”

Gail Oberg can relate. She describes herself as a Type A personality who is going all the time. However, when she began treatment for cancer at the Nancy N. and J.C. Lewis Cancer & Research Pavilion, she found the medicine she takes wipes her out. She was referred to the Yoga for Cancer Patients class and began three months ago.

“The whole relaxation thing was a real challenge for me but this class has helped a great deal because I’ve realized that’s all part of the healing process,” Gail says. “This class also has helped get my energy level back up.”

Yoga for Cancer Patients is offered free of charge to cancer patients – male and female – from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. every Monday in the Professional Office Building, room 508, on the Candler Hospital campus. No referral is necessary. If you have any questions about the class, call Sarah Copeland at 912-651-5788.


What others are saying about the class:

“Cathy is a really talented teacher. She gives beautiful directions so you always know what to do. She starts with serving what her students need, and also she’s had cancer herself so she’s aware of the restoring process and healing process. It’s a very supportive group as well. It’s done wonders for me and it’s also a community for us.”
- Kate Marsters, began taking the class nine years ago

“I am a beginner, and I do what I can. Cathy has really indicated to just do what you can do. This class is such a delight and everybody is so nice. It really does give me more energy.”
- Kirsten Borjesson, beginner

“This is like a support group. We can talk about any problems that we’re going through as far as our treatment and healing. I’m now a 12-year survivor and I’m healed, but you live in that fear that it’s going to return. I think there’s a common bond that you feel with these people that you don’t feel with other groups because you know everybody has fought the same battle going through treatment, getting your strength back and keep on living.”
- Brenda Hall, began taking the class nine years ago

“My first breast cancer was in 1998, and in 2000, I was introduced to yoga. I started then and have not stopped. I’ve had breast cancer again in 2012. It has done so much for my flexibility and my strength. I have arthritis and joint issues and my doctors say, ‘Do not stop the yoga.’ I also enjoy the mental part. I’ve found that it gives me a calmness and a feeling that if something happens, I don’t lose it, but think, ‘What do I have to do about this situation?’ It’s given me more of a calmness to handle those situations.”
- Vicky Parris

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