Why the Staunton-Augusta Family YMCA offers oncology yoga.
Research shows yoga can help people with cancer both mentally and physically. While it can’t fight cancer itself, according to WebMD yoga may ease some side effects of the disease and its treatments.
With this in mind, the Staunton-Augusta Family YMCA in Staunton, Virginia, launched a Yoga for Cancer program. Melissa Anderson Morgan, a group fitness instructor and registered yoga teacher, trained in yoga4cancer at the Staunton-Augusta Family YMCA in Staunton, Virginia. She pitched the program to the Y after watching her family member successfully battle cancer.
“I have been teaching at the Staunton-Augusta Family YMCA since 2014 and in the field of fitness, dance and yoga for more than 30 years, but only recently decided to focus on oncology yoga after a member of my family received a pancreatic cancer diagnosis just before the pandemic broke in 2020,” explained Anderson Morgan. “When I approached our fitness director about bringing the program to the Staunton-Augusta Family Y, I was met with utmost support and enthusiasm. Our Y already had an established wellness program for special populations and a solid track-record of success.”
On a typical class day, the practice lasts approximately 55 minutes. It always begins with a focus on breathing and ends in a final relaxation pose. Throughout the class, Anderson Morgan provides additional guidance, support or modifications when needed. Additionally, she educates participants about the benefits of specific poses and breathing techniques.
“The program benefits participants by empowering them to reduce stress, improve muscle strength and bone density, manage treatment side effects, and cultivate a strong immune system,” said Anderson Morgan. “Those who take part also build a sense of community through their shared experiences.”
After class, yoga props are cleaned and stored for the next class, and Anderson Morgan keeps notes of anything that may need a follow-up or modification. As warranted, she communicates with YMCA leaders on programming details, answers questions from interested parties in the community, and seeks input from other oncology-trained teachers to share and compare experiences.
Overall, the Yoga for Cancer program has benefits for the entire community by acting as a complement to the broader network of medical and professional services designed to support and aid those whose lives are touched by cancer.
Photo courtesy of the Staunton-Augusta Family YMCA.