In just few days time 33-year-old Bhoomika is all set to receive her certification in yoga from the prestigious Kaivalyadhama Yoga Research and Training Institute at Lonavala. For a woman diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer just a few years ago, this is indeed a big achievement. As she dwells upon her journey, she thanks herself to have taken the decision to opt for ‘Beyond Cancer: Healing the Whole Being’, a unique cancer rejuvenation programme at Kdham. The programme helps assist cancer patients/survivors to reconcile with the disease and tackle with its life-long effects, both physical and mental, as well as emotional.
As human beings we have limited vision. We are used to view, visualize and analyse what is within our periphery. Not many attempt to look beyond it, but one such person to do so is Lee, who is in charge of the ‘Beyond Cancer’ project at Kaivalyadhama Ashram. A senior yoga therapist, Majewski’s own fight with the monster disease propelled her to design a programme that attempts to empower cancer patients rather than make them helpless.
Lee has been through all of it – the trauma of learning she had cancer, undergoing traditional treatments, post-treatment laceration, and mental lethargy. “Had it not been for yoga, I would have not made it to this stage,” she narrates with a wide smile. It was Lee’s exposure to yoga at a Trinidad-based yoga ashram just before her cancer diagnosis to which she attributes her new- found courage.
The project is close to Lee’s heart. She has a hands-on experience of applying yoga to cure her. Moreover, she knows she has researched and derived the best of yoga and other alternative healing techniques. ‘Beyond Cancer…’ sets in where the patient wants to give up, feels Lee. It is a boon for patients who are waging a war with the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation in cancer treatment. Lee laments that often patients are left in a lurch by the end of their medical treatment. “Typically, this is the time when they need support to gather themselves, learn to relive…”, she says. Lee’s sensitivity towards this bitter truth made her realize that there is a great divide in the healthcare system. But, the solution to this she found at Kaivalyadhama, where she herself attended a yoga retreat. She swung into action and decided upon a programme for cancer patients based on yogic principles. “And thus, the ‘Beyond cancer’ programme happened. “It is a programme which encourages patients at their lowest point in life – at the end of the treatment”, she explains.
The very foundation of the programme lies in using all yogic tools optimally. Without limiting the schedule to just ‘asanas’ or only the practice of meditation, it is an exhaustive, well-researched package to ensure that the patient is re-established and rehabilitated both within himself, as well as his surroundings! From asanas and Pranayama, to meditation and chanting, from mudras and bandhas to Yoga Nidra are all integrally used to extricate patients from the hazards of the side effects of the treatment. “The idea is to work on all the aspects of the human being – body, emotions, energy, and mind,” elaborates Lee.
Ask Lee if such programmes lose velocity overtime and she warns of the mumbo-jumboism prevalent in their promotion. She informs that it is only recently that the International Association of Yoga Therapist (IAYT) has standardised training of yoga therapists. Moreover, even if a patient does find a certified therapist, Lee stresses the need for his/her own personal practice or sadhana. “A good healer should be a good practitioner. That’s a pre requirement,” she points out. Hence, she recommends renowned institutes with professional therapists to ameliorate the side effects of treatment for maximum benefits.
There is a place for everyone here. Cancer patients in all stages can participate. Only eight participants are allowed at a time and a highly individualistic approach is adopted. All participants are expected to complete the 21 days residential retreat. Necessary arrangements during an emergency are already in place.
First week: The first week is a ‘settling-down’ week for most of the patients. Some crisis in patients is seen, but it is between the first and beginning of the second week when practices which work like a suction pump and force out their innermost emotions, fears and anxieties are introduced.
Second week: By the second week there develops a fair amount of bonding amongst the participants. The realisation that they are not alone in the battle against cancer sets in. Intense spiritual initiations see the weak mind and many times the body too progress to higher endurable levels. The camaraderie opens up avenues for true healing.
Third week: This week is important to patients. It is here they realise that they are the sole torchbearers of their health and overcome the sense of hopelessness. Their energy levels witness a definite increase, too, and their motivation levels are refreshed.
As Bhoomika now readies to assist Lee, says, “I am glad I took up the challenge of attending this programme. I have now found a mission in life.” All her inhibitions before joining the course have now vanished and she feels empowered enough to assist a Beyond Cancer session. “Isn’t this proof enough that the programme really works?” she asks as she signs off.
Daily diary at ‘Beyond Cancer’
- 1 hour of gentle asanas
- 1 hour pranayama (breath management techniques)
- 1 hour meditation
- 1 hour Yoga Nidra (deep relaxation)
- 30 minutes of chanting
- 1.5 hours of lecture or group work
- 30 minutes of yogic counselling upon request