Yoga is not a cure for cancer, but it can help with the symptoms that accompany a diagnosis and the treatments that follow, said Jill Mustacchio, a registered nurse who became a yoga instructor three years ago.
"We know so many emotions go with a cancer diagnosis," she said. "Yoga can provide relief, a calming environment where patients can relax and listen to their bodies. Yoga can help healing and enhance patients' physical and emotional quality of life."
Mustacchio, a Douglas County resident who taught the class for three years in conjunction with Carson-Tahoe Hospital's Cancer Research Center, is now teaching at O2 Wellness Studio in Gardnerville.
She said the experience of teaching yoga to cancer patients has transformed her.
"The strength of these people is inspiring. They change the way they look at life, and they know how precious every day is," she said. "They pull themselves up by the bootstraps and fight. Cancer is a real battle."
Yoga teaches the principle of mind-body unity. If the mind is agitated, the health of the body will suffer. If the body is in poor health, mental strength and clarity will be compromised.
"I feel I'm doing this for nursing. This is my mission and my passion, to integrate the old with the new," Mustacchio said. "Western medicine has made so many advances, but we still need to pay attention to the basics, like meditation, exercise and nutrition."
Studies by Dr. Herbert Benson at Harvard Medical School and Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center have conclusively shown that yoga and meditation boost immunity and reduce stress, an underlying factor in many chronic illnesses, including heart disease and cancer.
Mustacchio said people can be intimidated by yoga, but this is a very healing environment.
"For many of these patients, their body has turned on them because of cancer," Mustacchio said. "Through yoga, these patients can experience their own bodies in a beautiful way."
"We all live such busy lives," Mustacchio said. "Yoga is the only time people are still."
O2 Wellness Studio offers a host of other disciplines and services including t'ai chi, Qigong and Reiki, a hands-on technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing.
The studio also offers Bowen Therapy, used to improve energy flow in the body and aid self-healing through a series of precise, gentle, painless pressure moves applied over clothing. For information, call 782-6345 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.