1. Please could you describe what Hatha yoga is?
There are so many definitions and descriptions of yoga, but basically yoga is a system which allows us to deepen our awareness and become more balanced. Most people come to yoga to benefit the body, to become healthy, strong, flexible and vibrant. Often we also find calm and clarity - yoga is freedom: as we return to the present moment we experience the true nature of our natural mind and a state of complete happiness.
Yoga is an ancient tradition which was developed in India and has existed in some form since at least 500 BCE (possibly longer). Yoga is a way of living, not a religion, and is therefore available to everyone.
The word yoga comes from the Sanskrit (scriptural language of ancient India) word yui meaning to “yoke’ or “unite”. Yoga joins the body, breath, mind and heart back into union, and we experience a connection to something greater than ourselves, a seamless harmony of being; what athletes and artists describe as being “in the zone”.
(The Sanskrit word yoga means “union”, that is, union or harmony of body, mind and spirit.) **Short explanation!
The term hatha derives from ha, meaning “sun”, and tha, meaning “moon”, symbolizing life force and consciousness. Hatha yoga offers a way to experience this integration along a path involving very specific practices that purify the body, calm the mind and open the heart.
2. How is this different from other yoga practices, like Vinyasa etc?
Hatha yoga is grounded in physical practices, and therefore any form of yoga which uses postures (in Sanskrit “asana”) is Hatha yoga. Some have a direct uninterrupted lineage connected to India, others bear little resemblance to traditional yoga. Popular styes practiced today are: Vinyasa Flow, Iyengar, Ashtanga Vinyasa, Jivamukti, Kundulini, Power yoga... and many others which offer slight variations with a branded name. All Hatha yoga is Vinyasa Flow, vinyasa simply means “to place in a special way” and flow denoting the conscious dynamism of movement within and between poses. Some classes flow more than others: whilst some styles will be fast paced and dynamic, others will be slow and quiet (like yin or restorative). In looking for a class to suit your needs check how it’s billed, enquire with the teacher and try things out. Each teacher brings forth their own history, training, knowledge and experience... it’s often worth trying out different styles or teachers.
3. How is this different from other yoga practices, like Vinyasa etc?
I love yoga because it makes me feel grounded and content. When I attended my first yoga class in my early 20s I knew I had found something which could really change the way I thought and felt: yoga made me feel deeply content, like being at home with myself. Throughout young adulthood I had wrestled with insecurities and anxiety, despite a confident and outgoing exterior. Although I had a great childhood, there was a lot of internal struggle, we had moved around a lot and therefore I spent a lot of time on my own, friendships were not long lasting, and I had a tendency towards introspection. Yoga for me is about developing the tools to navigate who I am in order to live a life which is more comfortable. It’s about acknowledging the experiences and decisions which have shaped us, paying attention to the thoughts and sensations of the moment, in order to respond to life less from patterns of defense but more from integrity.
4. How long did you train for?
Yoga is a lifelong practice, and as such we are continually learning. I have practiced for over 20 years, originally in Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga, a series of dynamic but repeated postures and breathing exercises. I am grateful that I discovered the Ashtanga tradition as it established me in a commitment to practice yoga regularly. Then (as now) I practiced most days at home, and in the studio 3 times a week. I travelled to India to broaden my knowledge of Indian and Hindu culture, studied yoga informally, and attended Vipassana meditation courses. Vipassana is a wonderfully simple technique which uses self-observation as a tool for self-transformation. It had a profound effect on me and transformed my yoga practice. Since then I have continued to attend workshops, trainings and classes with many reputable teachers of all kinds of yoga and personal development. Yoga supported me throughout my pregnancies and is invaluable now as a mother; learning to adapt, adjust and accommodate. After having my children I wanted to do more nourishing ‘work’, so I took a yoga teacher training course. I completed the 18 month 200hr training with YogaCampus, the training body of London’s The Life Centre, and I am certified by The British Wheel of Yoga. Additionally I trained to teach yoga for pregnancy and postnatal recovery with Uma Dinsmore-Tuli, an inspirational teacher and voice in the field of women’s yoga and health (read her amazing book “Yoni Shakti”). I continue my professional development by ongoing study, intensive training courses, and study days with BWY.
5. Why do you think this type of yoga practice is particularly good for anyone recovering from surgery or illness?
Yoga offers a variety of tools and techniques with which we can work towards integration and a balance of energies on all levels: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Practicing yoga can change our attitude towards life and towards our experiences, we develop the inner strength and stability that enables us to face and deal with all the experiences and crises that life brings us. Yoga strengthens the body to help deal with the uncomfortable side-effects of treatment, both during and after treatment.
Yoga asanas stimulate the muscles, increase blood flow, balance the glands and enhance the lymphatic flow in the body, all of which supports the body’s ability to remain well. Many gentle techniques will promote healing by clearing toxins, removing blockages that hinder the free flow of energy and raising energy levels.
Breathing exercises release tension and replenish energy. We learn how to replace poor ineffectual breathing habits with more healthy, life-enhancing ones. Simple breathing exercises can help to deal with the strong emotions that a cancer diagnosis gives rise to: panic, grief, despair. We observe how our emotions affect our breathing, but when we learn to change our breathing patterns we can create more serenity and balance. The breath is the link between body, mind and spirit.
Meditation develops mental focus and sharpens our powers of observation and perception, we are able to see thing more clearly as they are and understand the workings of the mind. Using the mind with intention to create a positive outcome affirms self-love. Deep relaxation allows the body to relax, the mind to quieten, and tension to dissolve. As body and mind ‘let go’ inner healing can take place.
8. What would you say to anyone who is thinking about starting a class but is a bit nervous (for whatever reasons!)
There are many different approaches to yoga, so take time to do a bit of research. First contact the teacher, find out about what classes are offered and let them know about your health. A teacher might ask to meet for an individual session to get to know you, and learn how to adapt yoga practices to suit your individual needs. Often one connects with a particular teacher who seems to offer exactly what is needed at that time.
Many people feel a little apprehensive before taking their first yoga class, whatever their circumstance, but we all begin somewhere! A good teacher will reassure you, explain things in great detail, and show kindness and compassion. If particular yoga postures feel challenging, don’t feel compelled to do everything. There are always adaptations, and the benefits of yoga extend well beyond your ability to achieve any particular physical shape. Listen to your own intuition, listen to your body and allow it to tell you what is right.
Reflexology is an alternative medicine involving application of pressure to the feet and hands with specific thumb, finger, and hand techniques without the use of oil or lotion. It is based on a system of zones and reflex areas that reflect an image of the body on the feet and hands, with the premise that such work affects a physical change to the body.
If the thought of having your feet touched, let alone massaged, makes you squint and look like you've just sucked a lemon, your not alone! I not only hate feet and everything about them; weird shapes, discoloured nails and rough skin among others, but I happen to have the most sensitive feet on the planet. When it comes to my own feet the only good thing about them is that they keep me standing! However, having my feet ‘tickled’, as my daughter puts it, is weirdly one of the most therapeutic things that has come out of cancer treatment for me.
There is no doubt, Reflexology is a hugely powerful treatment. As a little bit of background for you (Warning, History alert!); It dates back to the ancient civilisations in Egypt, India and China. The oldest evidence of its use comes from a pictograph in the tomb of an Egyptian physician near Cairo but it wasn’t introduced to the Western world until the early 20th Century. Dr William Fitzgerald, an American ear nose and throat dude, came to London and introduced the ‘Kengtitude zones theory’ in 1916. The re-discovery of some form of systemised foot treatment is accredited to Dr William Fitzgerald who called it Zone Therapy and drew it to the attention of the medical world between 1915 and 1917. It was in 1915 that an article entitled “To stop that toothache, squeeze your toe” was published in “Everybody’s Magazine”, written by Edwin Bowers, which first brought Dr Fitzgerald’s work on Zone Therapy before the public.
A guy called Dr George Star White and Dr Riley, his wife, went on to develop this theory, making the connections to the hands and feet but it was a women (of course!) Eunice Ingham, “The Foot Therapist’ who made the final connections, asking why not treat the hands and feet to treat the body. In 1934 the phrase Reflexology was coined. Ingham died in 1974 after devoting forty years of her life to reflexology. What a gal!
Reflexology has been used frequently in fertility, cancer and later stages of pregnancy as well as other major illnesses as well and as a regular treatment for general wellbeing. Clearly I am a massive fan but it was when I started having it as a complimentary treatment offered by the hospital where I was having radiotherapy, that I really began to understand the true benefits. It made such an impression that after treatment finished in 2007 I enrolled in an evening foundation course. Punchy for the old energy levels at that stage of recovery but I had been so inspired by my reflexologist, who had opened up this pathway and made me want to learn more. I met Lisbeth at Parkside oncology hospital, where she volunteers as a therapist, and she became my real life angel. Wings and all!!
‘Reflexology is not my job, it is part of my life. It is my passion. Its a treat for me to give it and see what it brings to everyone.’
- Lisbeth Doeff
I explored regular reflexology during treatment because, not only was it complimentary (always a bonus) but I really noticed that my body needed a helping hand in flushing out the chemo drugs, maintaining some wellbeing and helping my system heal as well as release negativity. Chemo and radio made me feel like The Marshmallow Man with jet lag; so weak and bloated and the fatigue seriously frustrated me. I was emotional, low and though doing my damnedest to put a positive light on things, Lisbeth had this incredible ability to tap right into this, recognising how draining that was in itself and helping me understand what was going on inside my body as well as my head. This, in turn, helped release other emotions so deepening my own healing process. It balanced me and transformed my
ashen complexion to a rosy glow and I started to appreciate I was doing the best job I could.
Its not always relaxing! I was, and still am, frequently on the ceiling during treatments, and though this doesn't sell it as a lovely fluffy relaxing treat, it is exactly what I need physically and emotionally. It is as if my system is getting a work out inside and out. I come away feeling rejuvenated, calm and energised. The discomfort I feel only reflects the tension I hold in certain areas of my body, namely my lower spine, digestive system and adrenals.
I have learnt so much from seeing Lisbeth. She has taught me that healing not only comes from relaxing holistic treatments but from a deeper spiritual understanding, a nutritional perspective as well as an emotionally balanced mind. Reflexology helps on all these levels. It helps digestion, it clears my thyroid and adrenal sluggishness, releases tensions and helps flush toxins. I am so much in my head it is a wonder I can hear anything other than the conflicting voices yelling at each other across what little mass of brain I do have, but having regular reflexology helps shut them up and brings some p & q! I love how I can feel the energy and attentions draining away from my head and into my feet.
Whether you are going through treatment for an illness or simply feeling out of balance, keeping your body functioning well on the inside is imperative. Seeing my foot as a map of my body seemed pretty bizarre but strangely fascinating. Im no scientist but there is a lot to be said for ‘itchy feet’! Lisbeth also practices massage, mindfulness and reiki but her intuition and patience are what makes her treatments such a profound experience.
She believes that
‘Different treatments work for different people and they have to try what they think will help them…..It is important as a therapist to know where your boundaries are and to do what is best for them as individuals……I am always training and still learning.’
Reflexology is good for anyone, unwell or not. I just so happened to discover it because of an illness. I am so glad I did and am committed to having it regularly. It isn’t going to stop me getting cancer but it certainly helps keep me sane and feel proactive in assisting my body deal with stress. Having had more than one diagnosis there are areas that I know Lisbeth will give special attention and because I have known her so long, it makes the treatment much more effective. If it is something you are interested in, look up The Association of Reflexologists for more information.
Anything you do during this healing time is for you and should be tailored to your wellbeing, no one else's. Lisbeth’s most important lesson to me was to Trust. To trust in my instinct and to trust in myself and my own ability to beat this and that, whatever happened, I would be ok. More importantly, I trusted her and I would trust her with my life, not just my feet. After all, clearly they do more than just keep me standing!
Effective way of internal massage on vital organs and internal processes; Helping with circulation, energetic flow, digestion and balance and wellbeing
Accessible and often provided in hospitals for free.
Not too expensive
Widely spread therapists through UK
Can have alongside other treatments to compliment
Not necessarily relaxing depending on the practitioner
Need regular treatments to see results
First few treatments can have side effects
Not good in first few months of pregnancy or for DVT and some types of cancer
These are a collection of blogs written by other cancer patients, survivors, friends and family as well as wellbeing and health therapists who wanted to share their expertise to help inspire and encourage us with recovery and healing. Over the last thirteen years I have put a lot of time and focus into my own self care and I have explored many activities and products that I wanted to share, so I have written a few too! Enjoy xx