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Live Well: Yoga for breast cancer survivors

October 4, 2013 Updated: October 4, 2013 at 7:50 am
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Catrina Reisner was 27 - and four months pregnant - when she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Doctors estimated that she had stage 3 cancer, but due to her pregnancy, they couldn't run the necessary scans that would pinpoint a diagnosis.

"They knew it was a really aggressive form of cancer," Reisner said, "but treatable."

She started chemotherapy and had a mastectomy three weeks before her healthy son, Wyatt, was born.

Genetic testing revealed she carried the BRCA1 gene, which doctors say makes the chance of developing breast and ovarian cancer significantly higher. Those results nudged her into a second surgery in August to remove her other breast and fallopian tubes.

"I feel good," she told me recently, "and I'm getting back to myself, which is a crazy thing. After all that, you feel like a fifth-grade science experiment."

Yoga has helped her get through the tough times.

In May, she began attending Nancy Stannard's classes for cancer survivors at Yoga Journeys. I met Stannard several years ago while taking the Yoga for Survivors training with Laura Kupperman in Boulder.

"It's hard to reconcile who you are with what your body has gone through," Reisner said. "It can be a shock and make you feel like you've lost who you are. Yoga centers me and puts me back in my body. It makes me feel like my body is still beautiful and that I'm OK."

I give that two down dogs up.

Beth McCarthy, a local yoga teacher who also completed Kupperman's training, became passionate about working with breast cancer survivors after her own bout two years ago.

"No. 1, therapeutic yoga supports the reduction of stress," McCarthy said. "It helped to calm and quell the fear that swept through my body and mind. Not only fear for myself, but as women, we're caregivers; immediately it was what will this mean for my family, friends and community."

A yoga practice can help all the systems of the body, McCarthy said, including the digestive, endocrine and lymphatic systems, and it can soften the side effects of treatments and surgeries.

On a non-physical level, a group yoga class can be a boon to those going through treatment.

"In the classroom, it's really about sparking new friendships and feeling inclusion instead of exclusion," McCarthy said. "Yoga builds resiliency and renewed confidence. I see that in all of my clients and myself and the direction of my life. It helps women transform a cancer diagnosis into a new direction, meaning and purpose."

Local Yoga For Survivors Classes

- Yoga Journeys, 709 N. Nevada Ave., Suite 201, 471-7424, yoga-journeys.net

Special needs yoga with Pat Komarow, noon-1:30 p.m. Tuesdays

Yoga for breast cancer survivors with Nancy Stannard, 10-11:15 a.m. Wednesdays

- Cambio. Yoga, 3326 Austin Bluffs Parkway, 291-1798, 321-8547, cambioyoga.com

Yoga for cancer wellness with Denise Widner, 1-2:15 p.m. Sundays

- Briargate YMCA, 4025 Family Place, 282-9622

Yoga for cancer survivors with Beth McCarthy, 10:45 a.m.-noon Fridays

- Beth McCarthy's home studio, 440-2815, healingthroughyoga.net

Therapeutic yoga for breast cancer (class is open to other forms of cancer), 10:15-11:30 a.m. Tuesdays, open by registration only

Contact Jennifer Mulson at 636-0270, jen.mulson@gazette.com.

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