Healing Through Yoga

Yoga Bear Brings Free Yoga Classes to the Cancer Community

by Yoga Bear staff

Wellness image

After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Alexandra Fraser endured four months of chemotherapy, a mastectomy, 28 days of radiation, and three additional surgeries. The symptoms of treatment left her feeling lost in her own body.

Looking for a way to regain her strength and stamina, Alexandra turned to Yoga Bear, a national nonprofit organization that connects cancer survivors with yoga classes free of charge. “Through yoga classes, I was able to reintegrate my spirit with a connection to my body,” Alexandra says.

Founded in San Francisco in 2006, Yoga Bear believes cancer survivors can benefit from yoga as a complementary aid in recovery from the harsh effects of cancer treatment. Studies have shown the positive physical and emotional effects yoga can bring to cancer survivors, including managing symptoms like depression, anxiety, insomnia, pain, and fatigue. Yoga can help people with cancer as they transition from cancer patient to survivor and beyond.

Complementary therapies like yoga can be expensive and are often not covered by insurance. As a result, many survivors are unable to afford classes.

“Cancer can cost a person upwards of $100,000, so the price of yoga is often out of reach for many survivors,” says Halle Tecco, executive director and founder of Yoga Bear.

A life-long cancer advocate, avid yoga enthusiast, and budding entrepreneur, Halle came up with the idea for Yoga Bear after working on a music therapy program at Columbia University Hospital and reading some of the early Western studies on yoga for cancer recovery. She knew donating class space would cost studios very little, and that the opportunity to take free yoga classes could have profound healing benefits for survivors.

Since its inception, Yoga Bear has grown from four partner studios in San Francisco to more than 250 studios in 25 states. The organization is 100-percent volunteer run and has distributed over $100,000 worth of donated yoga class passes through the Share a Mat program. Last year, Yoga Bear introduced the Healing Yoga Project, where trained instructors lead classes for people with cancer in hospitals.

“One of the most unique aspects of Yoga Bear is its focus on survivorship,” Halle says. “Many other organizations in the cancer community advocate for prevention or finding a cure, but few help survivors heal physically and emotionally after treatment.”

Yoga Bear’s Web site, www.YogaBear.org, is highly interactive, utilizing social media to create a welcoming environment that fosters connections between yogis, survivors, and volunteers across the country.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

To learn more about Yoga Bear or to find out if you are eligible for Yoga Bear’s free programs, visit www.YogaBear.org. Watch demonstration videos of helpful yoga poses at www.yogabear.org/page/videos-1.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, May/June 2010.