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The Place of Wellness at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston has offered classes in Hatha style yoga since it opened three years ago, beginning with one class per week and adding more as needed. Now three yoga sessions are offered weekly. As with the other classes at this health center, the purpose is for relaxation and symptom management, such as pain and fatigue.
"One person may use the class to incorporate active meditation into their symptom management. Another may be having some frozen shoulder issues after breast surgery and want to regain some sense of motion," says Laura Baynham-Fletcher, MA, LPC, manager of the Place of Wellness. Yoga energizes and refreshes patients suffering from cancer fatigue as a result of chemotherapy, radiation, and multiple surgeries.
Due to the health problems of many who come to the Place of Wellness, all participants are asked to complete a screening tool whether they are a patient, caregiver, or family member. People are asked if they have balance or musculoskeletal issues or a history of fractures or fainting. The screening tool isn’t used to keep patients from participating, but to tailor the activity to their needs, says Baynham-Fletcher.
For example, patients having problems with balance might be given a chair to steady themselves or even stay seated during the exercises depending on the frequency or severity of the balance problems. The instructor would then work with them on modification for seated postures. "We don’t want to turn people away because they have these kinds of issues. That is why we are here," says Baynham-Fletcher.
The unique setting also makes screening of instructors important as well. Before yoga instructors are hired at the Place of Wellness, they must submit a program proposal that includes their perception of the objectives for the class and their credentials. They are also asked to provide information on what classes they currently teach and the populations those classes serve. Staff from M.D. Anderson then visit the instructor’s class or the instructor provides a demonstration at the health care facility.
"What is unique about our credentialing process is that we mentor the instructor with someone from M.D. Anderson who is most closely related to their expertise," says Baynham-Fletcher. Therefore, the yoga instructors work with the director of rehabilitative services to go over the postures that would be most likely used in the class and adapting them to meet the patient population of M.D. Anderson.
For more information about incorporating yoga into a patient health center, contact: