Yoga for all

Shands Arts in Medicine offers several yoga courses, including the new Chair Yoga for Welness, Yoga for All and Yoga of Awareness for Cancer.

Perched cross-legged on a lime green mat amid the Criser Cancer Resource Center, Tammy Bernard lifts her arms and closes her eyes. Watching her from their own mats, which lay fanned out in a half circle, 10 students quickly mimic the movement, stretching slowly and breathing steadily.

“There’s no destination but this present moment,” Bernard murmurs to the class, a diverse collection of men and women ranging in age from early 20s to 70s.

Some participants bend as lithely as dancers. Others, older or undergoing treatment for cancer, do what they can.

It’s the type of crowd Bernard caters to in her class. Held at 4 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays in the Criser Cancer Resource Center, Bernard tries to make it a serene and healing space amid the hustle of the hospital.

“The practice of yoga supports a person’s ability to settle into the body,” said Bernard, who has been practicing yoga for more than 15 years and took part in professional training focused on using yoga techniques to help cancer patients at Duke Integrative Medical Center. “Research supports the efficacy of yoga for improving sleep, invigoration, relaxation and reducing pain.”

Although some might perceive yoga as being too complicated for older adults or people undergoing cancer treatment, Bernard says even the simplest breathing techniques can help people manage pain. Aside from her classes, Bernard also works with patients at the bedside, guiding them through breathing exercises, and relaxation techniques.

“Yoga really helps patients ride the waves of living with pain and emotional ups and downs,” she said. “It’s more than the person in the spandex doing yoga postures. It has a component of skillful living and self exploration.”
— April Frawley Birdwell

For more information on the Shands Arts in Medicine yoga courses email

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