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Yoga for Cancer Therapy: Human Resilience is Infinite

Cancer TT_Prana2017

On April 6-8 we are excited to host Dr. Ingrid Yang, M.D., J.D., E-RYT-500 again at Prana for a continuing education intensive for certified Yoga teachers on “Cancer Therapy Yoga.”

Ingrid has been teaching yoga since 1999, cancer therapy yoga since 2006 and has been leading this training since 2009. She specifically designed this training for certified yoga teachers to learn how to teach cancer yoga therapy with skill and confidence. In addition to being a passionate Yogi and former Yoga studio owner, Ingrid is a physician specializing in rehabilitation medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago, IL, with a particular emphasis on spinal cord injury, sports medicine and cancer rehab.  Here is a brief interview with Ingrid:


You’ve been offering this training for 7 years. What is the most profound change you see in your trainees while they undergo this training?

How much more confident and comfortable students become to teach cancer survivors and the courage they find within themselves to teach this population.


The great thing about trainings is that you spread your transformative work exponentially through your students/teachers. Where are some of these teachers teaching now? 

Many students have gone on to teach training to their respective students, but also at cancer centers, community centers, and even at hospitals in both group classes and one-on-one in the inpatient setting.


Some of your students are cancer survivors themselves. What have you learned by working with this population?

The capacity for human resilience is infinite.


Part of this training helps teachers with poses which address pain management. What yoga techniques can help with this?

meditation, meditation, meditation, pranayama, and more meditation!


How are eastern and western philosophies merging when it comes to caring for people who are dealing with cancer?

More and more allopathic physicians and oncologists are adopting yoga techniques of embodiment, breathing techniques and meditation.


Where do you see the future of cancer therapy going in the future?

Integrating all modalities of healing for whole-heart and comprehensive medical therapy — acupuncture, meditation, yoga, physical therapy, and more!


IY1Ingrid Yang, M.D., J.D., E-RYT-500 is co-author of Hatha Yoga Asanas and founder and past director of Blue Point Yoga, a yoga center in Durham, NC, where she developed this training while she was employed as a research associate at Duke Medical Center’s breast oncology department. At Duke, she focused her research on breast cancer and genetic and protein signatures demonstrated in chemotherapy treatment. Having worked closely with cancer patients in both clinical and yoga settings, Ingrid is uniquely qualified to inform and inspire teachers to lead cancer patients though the healing process of Yoga. She currently resides in Chicago and leads workshops, trainings and retreats nationally and internationally. www.ingridyang.com

Find out more about the upcoming Cancer Therapy Yoga Teacher Training on April 6-8, 2017 at Prana Yoga Center in La Jolla/San Diego.

Teacher of the Month: Alison McLean


Alison is a doctor of physical therapy, certified Yoga teacher and teaches Happy Back Yoga classes and Yoga Therapy workshops at Prana. 
How did you get into teaching Yoga? 
I fell in love with Yoga in the early 2000s but was always intimidated of teaching Yoga. However, combining Physical Therapy and Yoga always has had a strong pull with me, in fact this was part of the reason I went back to school for my Doctorate in PT. My mentor at the time encouraged me to complete a Yoga Teacher Training so I could formally combine Yoga and Physical Therapy.  I got certified through Prana Yoga’s 200-hour Teacher Training with Gerhard in 2012. The training really changed and evolved my life in a such a positive way.
Being a doctor of physical therapy you bring a unique approach added value for yoga to yoga. How has your training and work as a PT influenced you as a yoga student and teacher?
My PT training has taught me to slow down my practice and really evaluate how I am moving. I encourage my students to do the same. All of us have patterns of moving, some are functional and some dysfunctional. In a Yoga class, if we just go through the motions, then we always move through our familiar patterns. But, if we slow down and focus on the breath and alignment, we can teach the body to move in new ways. This will help heal any injury or prevent future ones down the road.
What does your own practice look like? 
My own practice is continually evolving. Especially now following pregnancy and an cesarean. I had to let go of “I will get back to” and just embrace a new practice without forcing. It is such a gift to give life, so I want to respect my body where it is now. And, truthfully being a new mom, any time on the mat feels good right now. Even if this time is a short 15-20 minutes or a partner practice with baby. Someday I’ll hop back into my Ashtanga class again when the time is right. Currently I think my body is still healing from the surgery, so I am being a little more gentle. Plus, since I’m hyper mobile in many joints, the strengthening from holding poses longer is very helpful.
Do you incorporate yoga in your work as a physical therapist when treating clients?
Yes, I love adding Yoga to physical therapy work.  Sometimes it’s just an intro to Yoga or sometimes the session is mostly Yoga. It depends on the patient’s goals and desires.
Besides seeing private clients as a physical therapist and yoga instructor you also teach public yoga classes and workshops, as well as anatomy trainings. What fascinates you about anatomy?
I am an anatomy nerd. The body fascinates me, it is so complex. However long you study anatomy, you can never know it all. Science is always discovering something new, either a new connection, function or even part. When you think you have finally got it, then something new is added to the mix changing everything. This keeps you on your toes and is forever evolving. The workshops I teach are just an extension to this knowledge combination. The workshop in June will focus on the Neck, Upper Back and Shoulders. With all the advances in technology we seemed to be glued to our devices, myself included. This posture can lead to lack of movement in some areas of the upper, back and chest, and poor positioning of the neck. We will use the Yoga Wall to reverse the effects of sitting and hunching to lengthen the spine and improve alignment. This will relieve a lot of tension in the neck, and top of the shoulders.
Who are your favorites teachers who most inspire you?
Some of the teachers who most inspire me and I have studied with are Judith Hansen Lasater, Ginger Garner, Roger Cole, Shelly Prosko, Jules Mitchel and Neil Pearson.
Join Alison’s Happy Back Yoga Wall  classes on Wednesdays at 10:00am and Tuesdays at 7:30pm.
Her next Yoga Therapy workshop “Free your Upper Back, Neck & Shoulderswill be June 5 at 2-4pm.
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