Finding stillness within is a perpetual challenge
for caregivers and for their loved ones.
Programs often focus on the individual with the
health challenge; and while there are resources
available for caregivers, it is special to find one
that welcomes both caregiver and patient or loved
one. Pink Ribbon Yoga, created by Corey
Becker, RN, encourages patients, caregivers, and
their extended support network to come together and
Becker has opened Memorial
Hospital Cancer Center's Breast Cancer Awareness
seminars in South Florida for the past three years
with instruction in yoga techniques. Feedback
from participants reached such positive levels that
she designed a yoga program to help women undergoing
the "journey" of breast cancer recovery, and all
those who come "in love and support" of another.
Alleviating caregiver stress and bonding loved
ones are her longtime missions. Having offered
programs in Alzheimer's Support that work with
caregiver and loved one, Becker strives to create a
bridge that strengthens both caregiver and family.
While Pink Ribbon Yoga began with the intent of
supporting breast cancer patients, it has expanded
to include individuals with a variety of health
challenges, from spinal surgery to ovarian cancer.
Some students have been cancer free for more than a
decade, while others are just being diagnosed.
Participants find a connection at the most basic
human level, human kindness.
caregivers of all types, one of the benefits is the
fellowship of the class. "First we do
physical," Corey emphasizes. The basic poses
are modified for each group, focusing on restoring
energy, rather than burning calories. A
physical and mental relaxation are done near class
end, followed by a short group discussion. The
physical warming up allows for the body to relax,
and when group discussion or "sharing" begins,
emotions may be released as well.
caregivers and their loved ones attend together,
Corey notes that healthy bonding occurs.
Individuals find themselves encouraging one another,
and appreciating the yoga poses, as well as laughing
about flexibility challenges. Again, the gap
of who is well and who is ill becomes blurred when a
patient or loved one may have far more flexibility
than the caregiver.
Caregivers and loved
ones of all types have new visions and increased
understanding during the sharing process.
Voicing feelings and experiences in a positive,
non-judgmental environment brings a reward as well.
"Being heard is therapeutic and healing,” states
For many, yoga has been a practice
that appears out of reach, with pretzel-shaped poses
suited for a rag doll. Pink Ribbon Yoga takes
the individual into consideration first,
concentrating on simple movements, breathing, and
awareness of the body. In the daily world of
caregiving, awareness of the body may come last.
Becker encourages students to think about how they
are feeling while leaving behind the criticism.
There are few yoga classes in which an instructor
will say “Give your toes some gratitude,” however,
this phrase is heard often, and directed toward
every body part. Becker reminds her students
that simple awareness of how one is feeling at the
moment helps the individual set limitations in and
out of yoga class.
physical responsibilities create tiredness.
Overtaxing of the body with chores without a
component to refurbish tired muscles causes
tightness of body and mind.
holds unconscious feelings, good and bad, which yoga
stretches and breathing can help release. The
pain in a caregiver’s neck may be literal and a
metaphor. When learning gratitude and
awareness of how the body moves and sets everyday
limits for an individual, caregivers can begin to
focus on how they are feeling in the moment, as well
as how much is too much.
Since the focus of
most illness is upon the individual undergoing the
health challenge, caregivers may inadvertently
change into caretakers, doing what is necessary but
gaining no benefit from what started out as a loving
exchange. Yoga changes this by creating body
awareness which evolves into an ability to become
aware of one's feelings and mental stresses.
It also gives the individual a method by which to
defuse these stresses.
Simple movements such
as the gentle rolling of wrists, pointing and
flexing feet, and self massage can be done by
caregivers and loved ones of many physical levels.
When the day is at its end and both caregiver and
loved one are spent by the demands of the illness,
one or the other can say “Let’s do a couple of
Because loved ones and caregivers
have other obligations, such as doctor’s
appointments, classes are drop-in and casual.
Becker attempts to give enough information in each
class to inform newcomers and the student who is
only able to attend occasionally. Learning one
or two poses can help the individual have an at home
respite, without the demands of a fully memorized
program. “If you’re present in the moment, and
aware of your breathing, that’s yoga” is Becker’s
In the world of
caregivers, support, society, and self-awareness
make up the triad that is the foundation for healthy
caregiving. Programs like Pink Ribbon Yoga,
and providers such as Corey Becker, RN, strive to
provide a way for caregivers to build a lasting
Yoga Surprises for
Anytime we are focused
on our breath and movement, shutting out the noise
of the mind (or at least trying to), we are
performing yoga. These two simple poses can
help caregivers mend at the end of the day, or can
be done at day’s start to recharge.
Savasana (pronounced Sha-vah-sah-nah)
“corpse” pose because of the positioning and
stillness, “resurrection” provides a kinder, more
apt name, focusing on its restorative effect.
Lie flat on your back, arms about six inches away
from your body. Your legs are relaxed, and the
feet will naturally fall to the outer sides of your
body line. Palms face upward, with the
intention of receiving healing energy from the
In yoga, energy is thought
to circulate, not only within the body, but from all
points of the universe. By focusing on
receiving energy, caregivers offer themselves the
opportunity to relax physically, but also visualize
and practice receiving from a source outside them.
This transfers to daily life, where expressing the
need for help, and then being willing to accept the
help is necessary.
This standing pose is modified
by sitting comfortably erect in a chair that allows
the back to be straight, but not stiff. The
hands are folded into a prayer position, over the
heart. Head and neck are relaxed, and the
visualization is of the spine being strong, like a
tree trunk, while the head gently floats atop, like
the sun in the sky.
Prayer position of hands
is called a mudra, and in yoga there are many hand
positions that signify particular meanings.
This one is called “Namaste,” a Sanskrit word that
translates to “My evolved self reaches and connects
to the evolved self in everyone.” When one person
says it to another, it is as a greeting, thanks, or
simple connecting of those forces.
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