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Breast Cancer Survivors Loosen Up With Yoga

A Baltimore-based non-profit uses yoga to help improve the quality of life for cancer patients and survivors.

Every October, the country gears up to bring awareness and raise money for breast cancer research and prevention. This year, the Susan G. Komen’s Race for the Cure in Hunt Valley, Maryland raised $2,604,714, according to the non-profit’s website.

That’s not chump change. Approximately 200,000 women and 1,700 men are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, according to The National Breast Cancer Foundation. Forty thousand people will die from the disease this year. Funds are needed for research, prevention and support.

Alyson Blum was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins B cell lymphoma 10 years ago. The 55-year old nurse has always been physically active, using weight training and cardiovascular exercise to stay in shape. But radiation treatments and four surgeries left her tired and depleted. That’s when she found yoga.

“I’ve always worked out and wanted to continue being active until the end of my life, whenever that happens to be. Once I started doing yoga, I found there were so many extra benefits,” Blum said. Learning how to be in the present moment and honor her body have been essential lessons to helping her feel healthy, she said.

“With yoga, I find I can still grow and do new postures. Yoga helps me feel strong not weak, so it keeps me positive mentally and that makes all the difference,” said Blum, who practices yoga several times a week.

Instructor Ann Wolff teaches yoga specifically designed for cancer survivors through the Active Survivors Network.

Classes use gentle yoga postures, breath techniques and yoga therapy to help reduce stress and increase prana (life force) into the disease-affected areas of the body.

“When you allow your body to quiet down and be still, and pay attention to yourself, that’s when the healing occurs,” Wolff said. She teaches an ASN class at the Maryland Athletic Club in Timonium on Sunday mornings. 

“My mom died of cancer eight years ago. I know how healing yoga can be, and has been for me in my life. If yoga can help anybody, I want to be a part of that,” Wolff said.

The Baltimore-based Active Survivors Network is a non-profit organization working to improve the lives of those living with serious illness. The group uses networking, physical activity and education about how to adopt healthy lifestyles to improve the quality of life of cancer survivors and anyone suffering from a serious condition.

The network offers free and affordable yoga classes for cancer survivors at the Maryland Athletic Clubs in Timonium and Harbor East.

Network students do not need to be MAC members. Non-MAC members are allowed six free classes, and then can pay a nominal fee for ASN classes. MAC members may attend the ASN classes for free as part of their membership.  For more information, contact Kay Carney at Kay@activesurvivor.org.

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