Taking Time to Breathe in the Midst of Suffering
Becoming aware of breathing patterns proves beneficial to cancer patients and survivors.
Julie Scheck of Gurnee has a weekly standing appointment. Each Wednesday she takes part in a healing yoga class put on by Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital. Scheck is a two-time breast cancer survivor and is one of six cancer patients who attend the free sessions.
Scheck said one of the main reasons she enjoys the healing yoga is because the instructor incorporates both chair and floor yoga, allowing for different variations of poses. This aspect is crucial for someone like Scheck who is dealing with the implications of scar tissue and in effect, limited range of motion.
Fiona Ricci-McCarthy, a yoga instructor with more than 11 years of experience, teaches the class by putting emphasis on breathing techniques and awareness. “Becoming aware of the breath,” said Ricci-McCarthy, “helps one slowly become aware of the whole body”.
Different types of breathing are introduced in the class including Pranayama, a Sanskrit word meaning ‘extension of the breath’. Techniques such as Pranayama help create an ambience in which one is able to slow down and focus on enhancing physical and emotional wellness. As the patients have been able to relax their minds in a quiet, calm environment, they have become aware of the consistency of breath, even in the midst of a changing body.
Jennifer Labovitz of Lake Forest Health and Fitness of Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital oversees the wellness programs and described healing yoga as ‘specific and gentle’. As this type of yoga does target a special population, numerous studies have shown that the power of breath contributes positively to many different healing processes. The techniques used in the healing yoga have been shown to alleviate pain and boost energy, especially in a state of cancer-related fatigue.
Along with the many physical benefits of healing yoga, Scheck said she has also experienced emotional benefits by being able to connect with others in the community who share similar struggles. A type of camaraderie has naturally formed out of the participants creating, for Scheck and others, ‘a local supportive group’.
Awareness of the breath has been known to permeate into other aspects of life including awareness of exercise, eating, and stress levels. For this reason, Labovitz said healing yoga can be monumental in becoming aware of one’s outlook on life, especially during physical and emotional trials and tribulations.
Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital offers free healing yoga to cancer patients and survivors at 1 p.m. every Wednesday at its Grayslake location at 1475 E. Belvidere Road. For more information, log on to their website.