Many cancer patients and survivors have experienced physical, emotional, and psychological trauma that can affect their well-being long after treatment ends.
The emotional toll of a cancer diagnosis and treatment can lead to anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). For women recovering from breast cancer, the effects of trauma can be particularly complex. The physical changes to the body, such as mastectomy or breast reconstruction, can cause feelings of loss, grief, and body image issues. As a result, many breast cancer survivors may feel disconnected from their body, struggle with their sense of identity and purpose, all while dealing with the fear of recurrence.
Yoga and meditation can be powerful tools in helping women reconnect with their body and find a sense of inner peace and balance. However, it is important to recognize that for women who have experienced cancer, a trauma-informed approach is crucial in creating a safe and supportive environment that fosters healing
About a year after finishing the primary phase of my treatment, I began to feel anxious when meditating on body sensations, one of the key practices in mindfulness meditation. My attention would zero in on any discomfort or tightness I felt in my body, and I would spiral into worrying ruminations that it might be a sign of recurrence. Meditation was no longer a place for settling down my mind; on the contrary, I would close my eyes and feel fear rising inside me. I realized I needed to change my meditation practice as it was reactivating the trauma of my cancer experience. I switched to mantra meditation, where the repetition of a simple, soothing sentence helped me focus my attention on something positive and reassuring. This change allowed me to feel comfortable again in my meditation practice.
This personal experience helped me realize that certain practices, while helpful for some, may not be appropriate for others. It opened new perspectives for me on the need to implement a trauma-informed approach in my work.
Being trauma-informed means understanding how trauma affects the mind and body and how it can manifest in a person’s thoughts, behaviors, and interactions. It also means creating a safe and supportive environment that empowers individuals to take an active role in their healing process.
Trauma-informed yoga and meditation classes prioritize creating a safe and inclusive space for all participants, regardless of their experiences. For cancer survivors, this includes offering options for poses and movements that accommodate physical limitations and providing modifications and variations. It is critical to know which poses may be the most beneficial and which ones may no longer be appropriate after cancer treatment. It also includes anticipating what practices or language could be emotionally triggering and offering alternatives.
Everyone is different, and I strongly believe it is essential to prioritize building trust and relationships with clients. In my programs, Zest for Life and Soft Embrace, I take the time to understand my clients’ experiences and feelings, actively listen to their concerns, and acknowledge their strengths and resilience. By incorporating a trauma-informed approach in my teachings, my goal is to create a comfortable and supportive space where participants can fully focus on their well-being.