October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. An annual international campaign to raise awareness of this chronic disease and underline the importance of early detection and prevention measures. All Pink October people share their support for those affected by it.
Breast Cancer Survivors, like all cancer survivors, are super brave, resilient, amazing women, who, in order to improve their physical strength and mobility and mental well-being, need support and a helping hand.
Andiappan Yoga Community (AYC) supports Breast Cancer Survivors on a daily basis through yoga practice. It is a volunteer-based non-profit organisation offering the therapeutic benefits of yoga to those in need in all communities across Hong Kong. Since the beginning, AYC has been fully manned by volunteers. “Do Not Harm” - safety is paramount in all yoga classes offered by AYC. Sessions are therapeutic, focusing on the needs of students and respecting their limits.
Breast Cancer Survivor classes started in 2012 and continue to this day. In 2016 AYC partnered with Hong Kong Breast Cancer Foundation (2016 - Sep 2019) and in 2022 with Global Chinese Breast Cancer Organization Alliance (on-going).
AYC’s founder and director – Dr. Yogananth Andiappan – initiated and tailor-made the program to introduce Yoga Therapy sequence for Breast Cancer Survivors. This sequence is designed for the cancer patients according to their conditions and mobility. Focusing on improving the overall mobility and strength which helps in adapting to daily life after treatments, boosting the energy levels and performance of organs and soothing certain symptoms. It also includes different pranayama (breathing techniques) and meditation to help maintain a calm and peaceful mind and cope with pain and stress management.
According to Dr. Andiappan regular practice of this tailor-made sequence will help reduce fatigue and improve quality of sleep, physical vitality, and overall quality of life. Dr. Andiappan completed a research study and the findings include women taking yoga had improvement in fatigue, physical functioning, and quality of life compared with those in the program who did not take the yoga classes.
Breast Cancer Survivor project welcomes mostly low-income earners or patients referred by hospitals or other support organisations.
The program is taught by qualified and trained AYC’s teaching volunteers with Hazel Chan, an experienced yoga
teacher, as the leader of the project. All the volunteering teachers in this project have to graduate from 300-hours Yoga Therapy and Ayurveda Teacher Training Certificate Course.
Hazel explains how certain yoga poses and breathing techniques and mediation can be beneficial for Breast Cancer Survivours:
“Cat & Cow pose is great as it improves the overall mobility of the spine and stimulate spinal fluid production for better hormonal balance in the body. Fish pose – with blocks support – is one of our favourite postures we practice in class. After surgery patients experience a lot of pain in the upper chest and upper arms and have limited movements in joints. The fish pose helps to release the stiffness in the shoulders, chest and upper back. It can also improve the breathing capacity- some patients might suffer from short breathing and find it difficult to breathe deeply because of tight chest muscles and pain after the treatment.
In terms of pranayama, Nadi Shodhana- alternate nostril breathing and yogic breathing, where the diaphragm movement is emphasized to stimulate the vagus nerve reflex, help calm the mind and improve sleep quality, balancing yin and yang energy levels. These breathing practices are very beneficial to patients in moderating emotional challenges such as stress and anxiety, and improving capability in pain management.
Meditation techniques such as Yoga Nidra, a.k.a yogic sleep, helps to release tensions, relieve pain, stress and anxiety, supports self-awareness and connection to our body, and improves sleep quality and promotes positive emotional stimulation”.
Hazel adds that AYC has kept on growing, running many projects for the community and many Yoga Teacher Training graduates are joining in. It is a mutual learning experience and it is very encouraging and rewarding to see students’ progress through their recovery journey. It requires commitment, devotion and dedication from the volunteers. It becomes a part of their yoga journey.
AYC continues to enrich lives with yoga and expand access to its benefits by many other projects in HK communities:
Financially Accessible Yoga (for those with monthly incomes below 5k HKD) - Outdoor yoga classes at Central Pier, Sai Kung, Discovery Bay, Stanley, Blake Pier; Yoga for Homeless Individuals with Impact HK; Yoga Class for financially disadvantaged women at Tai Kok Tsui Integrated Services Centre; Yoga Class for financially disadvantaged women at Society for Community Organization (SoCO) and online Yoga Classes for All.
Medical Rehabilitation Yoga -Online Yoga Therapy and Meditation for Women in Substance-Use Rehabilitation; Yoga Therapy for Pain Patients from Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
Positive-Ageing Yoga - Yoga Therapy Class for Seniors at Kwai Chung (East) Integrated Elderly Service Centre; Yoga Therapy Class for Seniors with Lok Sin Tong Benevolent Society.
Healthy Growth Yoga (for youth and children) - Yoga Class for Kids with Playright Children’s Play Association; Yoga Class for Youth Outreach.
For more information about projects and classes visit: www.yogacommunity.org