September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and whilst cancer in children and teens is rare there are around 4,500 diagnosis each year in the UK. * Hearing that your child has cancer is, of course,  shattering news for the whole family.

Life changes in an instant and it is important to find ways to support young patients and their families as the come to terms with the diagnosis and the treatment that follows.

One study showed that even a single session of yoga was beneficial to adolescents with cancer as well as to their parents and carers. Children under 12 responded similarly to their control group. **

Yoga and mindfulness have been shown to have a significant impact on managing anxiety and can also boost mood and give children skilful ways to manage their symptoms and treatment.

It is essential when sharing yoga with this group, that the practice be tailored to the child’s individual needs.  You must have sufficient training and thoroughly research each case, with an understanding of any potential contraindications and it is vital to consult with each person’s medical team before your first class.

Sessions can vary from breath awareness and meditation to simple poses and mindful movement.  Yoga Nidra, with a focus on relaxation can be helpful as well as skilfully delivered guided visualisations.  It is important to get to know each child, their condition and plan what would work best for them.   If you are teaching in a hospital and have the necessary experience, you may want to offer a group class, making sure you can accommodate the various needs of each child. This can not only build community but also give children the normal experience of a beneficial and engaging activity which may not be available to them.

Start with simple and accessible practices such as seated postures and breathing with hand mudras.  Standing and easy balance poses, supported if necessary, can also be a good option.

Suggested Practices

Sitting with hands in Hakini mudra.

– Focus on the breath and/or the hands. Pressing the fingertips into each other on the in breath and releasing on the out breath.

Sitting with hands in Anjali mudra

– On the in breath, curl your fingers into a little ball shape,  and as you breathe out bring your hands back to Anjali mudra.

Suggested Poses

Butterfly

Cat/Cow

Down dog

Child’s pose

Standing in Tadasana, breathe in and bring your hands to meet above your head in Anjali mudra and as you breathe out, bring them back down to your sides.

Gentle Arm swings.

Balance poses such as tree or flamingo.

Below is a quote from the UK’s leading Children’s Cancer charity, which reminds us that we will all be affected by cancer in our lifetime and for many, yoga can be a lifeline.

“When someone has cancer, the whole family and everyone who loves them does too.”

You can donate to children with cancer on their website.

We will be donating the proceeds of all our website CD sales to children with cancer.org.

References:   *childrenwithcancer.org.uk

**Thygeson MV, Hooke MC, Clapsaddle J, Robbins A, Moquist K.  Peaceful Play Yoga: Serenity and Balance for Children with Cancer and Their Parents.  Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing 2010; 27(5) 276-284