by Betsy Denson
In 2009 Candlelight Place’s Donda Dye suffered a stroke from a twisted artery. She calls her survival miraculous but was left with a weakness in the left side and a brain injury resulting in balance issues. A practitioner of yoga in the past, she saw an ad a year ago in The Leader for free Chair Yoga at Memorial Hermann Northwest.
“Chair Yoga caught my eye because you get the same benefits of yoga but without the danger of falling,” said Dye. “Besides learning relaxation techniques, I’ve also learned great breathing techniques for healing and cleansing inside issues, too, which I’d not learned elsewhere.”
The Chair Yoga class at Memorial Hermann Northwest started in March of 2012 and was the brainchild of Angela Sisk, R.N., a certified Yoga Nurse. Yoga Nursing is a new accredited movement in healthcare and nursing which blends ancient yoga and modern nursing to relieve SAPS (stress, anxiety, pain and suffering). It was created by Annette Tersigni, a yoga instructor and R.N.
Each class involves breathing exercises, gentle movement, and relaxation. Benefits include decreased blood pressure, improved mood, reduced depression, stress reduction and increased mobility.
Although the class is open to anyone who wants to attend, many of the participants are cancer patients or cancer survivors. Shirley Cato is a breast and lung cancer survivor who has been volunteering for the past 20 years with the American Cancer Society’s program “Reach to Recovery” which serves breast cancer patients.
For the past three years Cato has been a volunteer at Memorial Hermann Northwest Hospital in their cancer center. That’s where she heard about Chair Yoga.
“I do everything possible to keep my immune system up. The Chair Yoga and meditation I find essential for my well being,” she said.
Laura Hollingsworth is currently being treated for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and has two more chemotherapy treatments to go. In addition to the discomfort from her port, she also experiences rib pain as the result of a car accident she and her husband had on the way home from the hospital. She says the breathing exercises help her pain.
On a recent Monday, Sisk led the group through combinations of eight essential postures over an hour-long period. In addition to the exercise, participants also appreciate her demeanor.
“Angela is so calming and encouraging I feel very relaxed and a bit cocooned from the fast pace of life,” said Dye. “She has taught me the importance of slowing down and listening to my body. That hour is much needed in our lives full of hustle and bustle.”
“People hear yoga and are totally intimidated, but anybody can do this,” said Sisk. “It’s easy and effective.”
Sisk will soon be teaching other nurses about Yoga Nursing and how to relieve SAPS in themselves and their patients. “I want to teach nurses how they can use yoga in a healthcare setting,” she said.
The class is held every Monday from 2-3 p.m. in South Tower, Classroom F. Classes are free, and parking is validated. Participants are encouraged to wear comfortable clothes and to bring a towel and water.
For more information, call 713-867-2062.