Linda Kessler / Intern Writer
Every Tuesday evening, cancer survivors, patients still undergoing treatment and people who want to keep themselves cancer-free gather at the Denton Regional Medical Center to attend a yoga class designed specifically for breast cancer survivors and patients.
Pam Ryan and Susan Reeves, who teach the class, are the co-founders of Yoga Bridge, which they started in January 2012. Both having friends or family who were diagnosed with cancer, they noticed a need in the community and wanted to offer yoga to those who had also been impacted by cancer.
“We knew that we had both loved yoga, the gentle aspect of it, and appreciated what yoga could do to help us build strength,” Reeves said. “And we wanted to transfer that into a class that’s appropriate for people with cancer.”
Their classes are primarily funded through Foundation 56. Retired Dallas Cowboys linebacker Bradie James started the foundation after his mother died of breast cancer in 2001. Foundation 56 supports women, typically in underserved areas, with access to services and resources like yoga.
It also provides Reeves and Ryan with blankets, blocks, yoga mats, straps, and other equipment. Yoga Bridge is also funded by a $10 charge for guests who have never had cancer, participating in fundraisers and donations.
Yoga Bridge currently offers three classes: one in Flower Mound, one in Lewisville and one in Denton. Calm music, relaxed lighting, and a soothing atmosphere set the scene as women touched by tragedy search for peace.
Linda Fischer and Kathe Wagner are two women who have used this program. Fischer said the community is very close-knit, like a family. This was made apparent at the end of the class, when almost every participant stayed well after to talk with their fellow yogis.
From start to finish, they expressed a thankfulness for what they have, what yoga gives them, and for the people they have to experience this program with. Ryan had them count their blessings and reminded them to always be thankful while they build their quiet personal peace through yoga.
A quiet moment to yourself isn’t the only thing that Tuesdays at Yoga Bridge provides.
“Yoga helps me with my breathing. It helps with strengthening and with balance,” Wagner said. “It helps you with your mind as well, because you get thoughts that just get kind of wild and erratic, and this brings you down and calms you.”
The class has had various impacts on every woman.
“What’s nice about this class is that they realize that you may have had reconstructive surgery, you may have scar tissue that doesn’t move, and so they pretty well adapt to what your body can do here,” Fischer said.
The type of yoga that influences Reeves and Ryan for these classes includes Iyengar yoga, which focuses on the safe alignment of the body, and restorative yoga. Yoga not only helps people with breathing and gaining strength, but it assists with recovery in a multitude of ways.
“Yoga comes at a cancer diagnosis from a perspective that’s refreshing to people that have gone through treatment,” Reeves said. “It’s not in a hospital setting. It gets them to befriend their body again so that they don’t feel like they’re at war with it.”
Featured Image: Instructor Pam Ryan, right, demonstrates proper form to the ladies of Yoga Bridge. Ryan stressed the importance of stability and safety while practicing yoga. Photo by Evan McAlister – Staff Photographer