Module #4 was boldly and broadly titled: The y4c Methodology. The module started with the Five Pillars of y4c which I wrote years ago after frequently being asked, “How is y4c different from any other yoga lineage?” The Pillars describe how I began to cultivate this methodology in my early teaching. As I continued to build this work, I noticed how each of my 5 pillars mirrored the teachings of the first five Koshas. It was validating to see how the development of y4c philosophy naturally connected to ancient yogic concepts.
Modifications and Poses to avoid
There remain many concrete differences between the broad concept of yoga, and yoga4cancer. Those differences are the things that sculpt y4c into a methodology; a specialization. Clarity on what is appropriate for cancer survivors, what not to do and why became the first of three considerations to help define y4c as a specialization. In Module #4 we detailed the certain poses and breathing practices that should be taught with caution, and most importantly, why this is the case. This kind of critical thinking leads us to explore and question the common poses that may otherwise be the ‘staple’ poses within other yoga styles and methodologies. In light of treatment side effects, fears or needs of a cancer survivor, what is assumed acceptable in most yoga classes may be compromising, thus require special consideration or modifications. For example, Downward Facing Dog, Deep Forward Bends, Child’s Pose and Breath Retention practices are discouraged in the y4c methodology for reasons we have explored. Instead, other tools of yoga are emphasized in yoga4cancer, like vinyasa sequences and emphasizing the exhale during breathing exercises.
The Use of Props Essential to the Method
Another consideration that leads this work into specialization is our unique use of props; especially blocks. Using blocks during standing poses is not unique, however the intention here is to ensure safety and accommodation. A person who cannot reach their lower hand to their bottom leg in Triangle Pose may benefit from the use of blocks for this reason only. For a survivor, range of motion is only one of many concerns we address. The use of props helps to ensure proper spine alignment to protect delicate vertebrae that could be weakened from chemotherapy, for example. Furthermore, blocks are the surest, smoothest way to complete a yoga class with that well-being feeling. Beyond staying safe and beneficial, blocks and other props help people move through their practice with grace. I want everyone in my classes to feel confident and accomplished in their practice and never feel that they are challenged or have to struggle to achieve a ‘shape’. There is enough challenge and struggle in cancer.
Applying the Methodology
A third concept that defines us as a specialization has to do with you, the yoga teacher. As you move forward taking this specialization to those you intend to serve, you are in a distinct category of yoga teacher. You have specialized education. You have taken the effort to train, explore, practice, and observe in order to address the specific needs of your future students and clients. What is different about this methodology from the lineage you were originally trained in as a yoga teacher? How have you adapted your teaching knowledge and abilities to serve the cancer community? How might your work in this field separate you from other yoga lineages? These questions may stay with you and guide you as you complete this program.
You have explored what to do in class, what not to do, and what to teach with caution. You have connected vinyasa and cancer in (hopefully) surprising ways. Now you have the elements of a y4c class plan. The creation of your own sequences is the work ahead.