Cancer survivors find comfort in yoga

It’s a personal celebration for Grace Page just to do some yoga.

Yoga instructor Suzanne Blackwell leads a group of cancer survivors at the Yoga Alliance of Red Deer recently.

Yoga instructor Suzanne Blackwell leads a group of cancer survivors at the Yoga Alliance of Red Deer recently.

It’s a personal celebration for Grace Page just to do some yoga.

“Yoga is a bit of an affirmation that you’re healthy,” the Red Deer woman said, sitting on the mats at the Yoga YARD in an after-class relaxation period.

“It’s a time you can put everything else aside for one and a half hours, and grow mentally, physically and spiritually.”

Page was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007 and has been a survivor for three years now. She’s done with the medical treatments and is ready to reclaim her life, she said.

Page isn’t the only cancer survivor in the Yogathrive class put on by instructor Suzanne Blackwell. In fact, this gentle brand of yoga is designed for those who have recently recovered from cancer or who are undergoing treatment, and has been credited with improvements in physical health and strength, mood and stress levels.

Sunday was the second session in the seven-week class offered for the first time in Red Deer.

Blackwell decided to do the class after noticing a number of people with cancer in the fitness and yoga classes she has taught.

“Their strength, that was very inspiring. I thought, ‘I would love to work with these people,’ ” said Blackwell. So she sought teacher training from Yogathrive pioneer and Calgary kinesiologist Susi Hately.

As an example of what Yogathrive can do, Blackwell said that breathing exercises can help a person endure the pain and discomfort of chemotherapy.

Cancer survivor Bev Smith, another one of Blackwell’s students, said she believes yoga can aid one’s health.

“You have to heal yourself along with the medical help. And keeping yourself strong, mentally and inside your body, understanding how your body works and feels, is very important,” said the Lacombe woman.

The class isn’t just for those with cancer. José Marshall is dealing with a severe bacterial infection that has left her depressed, unable to sleep and subject to constant anxiety attacks.

“A friend of mine put me onto this,” said Marshall, “and I’ve now been able to breathe better, handle my anxiety better.”

She also said the atmosphere puts her at ease, since the others know illness and are compassionate and understanding.

The class is two sessions in, but anyone wanting to join can still contact the Yoga YARD at 403-350-5830. The course costs $63.

mgauk@bprda.wpengine.com