Tag Archive | "yoga"

Yoga Offers Hope to Cancer Patients

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web yoga

By Emily J. Weitz

Every two weeks in Sag Harbor, people fighting the battle of their lives join together to practice yoga. Teacher Eric Pettigrew does not believe that cancer should be treated like a death sentence, and his goal is to empower students and survivors to be their most vibrant, even in the face of illness.

Pettigrew, a homeopathic doctor and yoga teacher, trained as a teacher for cancer survivors through Om Yoga Center in New York a few years ago.

“As a homeopathic doctor, I have patients who come to me with cancer because they feel they have nothing else,” he says. “They have no hope and they’re ready to try anything. I am here to listen, and to make people feel more at ease with the condition. It’s not good news, but there are options in terms of how you live your life.”

There is a host of reasons that yoga is beneficial for people dealing with cancer, whether they are the patients themselves or the caregivers.
“Yoga and breath awareness are not just exercises,” says Pettigrew. “I present them as tools in your healing journey.”

Two of the most profound benefits of yoga for those dealing with cancer are the increased lymphatic flow and the strengthening of bone density.

“Any movement increases lymphatic flow,” says Pettigrew. “This is crucial in cancer healing. The lymphatic system is very compromised, especially with the removal of lymph tissue. We’ll do lots of movements up and down, pumping the legs and arms to stimulate the movement of lymph.”

Chemotherapy has been proven to decrease bone density, and it can bring on early osteoporosis, Pettigrew explains.

“By doing yoga and weight bearing,” he says, “you are stimulating the bone cells to regenerate.” He’ll bring students to a wall or chair for support if necessary, and then will instruct them to hold balancing poses like Tree Pose for many breaths.

These physical poses represent the asana aspect of the yoga practice. Pettigrew believes that movements like these are essential because it’s empowering for patients to feel like they have some control in this illness, which takes so much out of their hands.

But even more transformational, Pettigrew has found, is the breath work.

“Breath awareness is at the top of the list for dealing with the anxiety that comes with this diagnosis,” he says. “We get so caught up and we forget to slow down and observe the movement of the belly, the weight of the head on the floor. It helps them from getting too overwhelmed with what’s happening around.”

Cancer patients are not the only ones who suffer from the treatment process. Caregivers, whether they’re spouses, children, doctors, or nurses, usually need a strong reminder to care for themselves too.

“Often the caregiver in the story is forgotten,” says Pettigrew. “They are stressed, they don’t know how to breathe, they’re running like crazy. It’s very tense. And we need to soften.”

In addition to the mental and physical benefits of practicing yoga, this class gives students a sense of community and a well of emotional support from which to draw.

“When I have new students,” Pettigrew says, “I try to make them feel comfortable right away by talking about the ‘C Word.’ We say cancer. We are not afraid of it.”

Because there’s a common struggle, participants feel they’re in a place where they can feel accepted.

“It makes them more friendly with themselves,” says Pettigrew, “and that’s the first step. Down the road, it creates this beautiful dynamic of the group. They realize they’re not alone.”

Pettigrew attributes much of the success of this program to Fighting Chance, which facilitates the yoga class as well as support groups. Social networking, and meetings.

“To come into a room and sit in a chair in a circle and close your eyes and feel your body and your breath in a place where you’re allowed to do that, it’s powerful,” he said.

Yoga for Healing and Wellness is offered every other Thursday from 2:30 to 3:30. It is free and open to anyone dealing with cancer. Registration is requested: 725-4646.

Finding Foundation

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Biz Pic Foundation

Local Chiropractor teaches famed method to develop the “new” core.

By Marissa Maier


I don’t consider myself to be particularly athletic. I do yoga and run occasionally, but other than this I do very little exercise. On a Monday morning when local chiropractor Glenn Goodman was about to give me a brief tutorial in the new Foundation technique I was obviously at first a little faint of heart. But as we flowed from one posture to the next the exercises became more enlightening than burdensome. With my hips pulled back, arms stretched towards the sky and knees slightly bent, I was noticing muscles deep in my back that I honestly hadn’t felt in years.

The Foundation program, developed by Goodman’s nephew Dr. Eric Goodman, focuses on strengthening the back, or as Goodman calls it “the new core.” While many other forms of exercise emphasize the abdominal muscles, Foundation pays equal if not more attention to the rear of the body, and with good reason. At his Sag Harbor-based chiropractic office, Goodman noted that most of his clients seek out his services to alleviate back pain.

“The largest number of cases that any chiropractor sees is back pain, usually in the lower back,” Goodman added. “The Foundation has become the most efficient and effective technique I have ever found to get people out of pain and increase their performance athletically.”

The program itself was created out of Eric’s back problems. As a water polo player, surfer and all around athletic guy, Eric has suffered from back pain due to his years of activity. As the pain wasn’t fully resolved through yoga, chiropractic or acupuncture, Eric started to developed his own method to strengthen this core area and laid the groundwork for the Foundation. He was also working as a professional trainer at the time and was able to test out this new technique on his clients. But his “big break,” as Goodman calls it, came when he was asked to be the chiropractor for the U.S. Water Polo team, who were soon to compete in the Olympics.

“They were bottom ranked and then they were silver medaled without injury,” Goodman remarked, highlighting the rarity of an Olympic team competing without a single injury.

After joining forces with Peter Palk, the official strength and conditioning coach for Lance Armstrong, the Foundation has slowly collected a cadre of well-known followers. From Los Angeles Lakers basketball players to 10-time world surfing champion Kelly Slater to celebrities like Matthew McConaughey, the Foundation is gaining both traction and fame in the world of professional sports and beyond. Eric and Palk are set to publish a book on the Foundation in May 2011 with a forward written by fan Lance Armstrong.

While the Foundation classes are continually taught privately and at a studio in Santa Barbara, Goodman is the only practitioner of the technique on the East Coast. He is just finishing a series of Foundation classes at One Ocean Yoga in Bridgehampton and will start another course, at a yet to be determined location in January.

Though athletes and movie stars are notable followers of the Foundation, Goodman pointed out that the technique is accessible to anyone, from the novice to the advanced. The movements themselves, while slightly challenging to hold, are simple and straightforward. As the Foundation method also draws from yoga and Pilates, Goodman likes to give his Foundation routines a flow which is similarly found in Vinyasa yoga, seamlessly moving from one position to the next. He also explains that the technique specifically concentrates on a group of muscles called the posterior chain — which extends from the hamstrings to the back. Toning these muscles strengthens the back to both alleviate pain and increase athletic ability.

For those on a time crunch, Goodman teaches a shortened 20-minute routine to make the practice workable for any hectic life. As one local Foundation devotee observed, Goodman is like a dentist who is simply teaching his clients how to keep their teeth clean.

“The key is daily dipping,” he noted. “They can create their own personal short routine that is just simple so they can do it on a regular basis.”