By Halle Tecco Founder of Yoga Bear
Yoga has played a huge part in my life-- giving me the strength to constantly recenter and find peace in whatever happens. But the role yoga has played in my life hit its pinnacle when I figured out how to use my admiration for the practice in service to others.
I have always been a cancer advocate. Shouldn't we all be concerned about fighting this disease that affects one in three of us? But I'm not just concerned with finding a cure or preventing cancer (although these are very important things). We should also be concerned about the 11 million survivors who have gone through months or years of treatments, out of the hospital ready to obtain the highest quality of life. Looking to get back to their jobs, their families, and to a meaningful, happy existence. The cancer world defines this as 'survivorship'.
Cancer-oriented non-profits and research disproportionately support programs that focus on people in active treatment for cancer. And many of the services that are provided to people while undergoing treatment, are taken away once the treatment is over. I saw this as an opportunity, and founded Yoga Bear in 2006.
Yoga Bear brings free yoga classes to post-treatment cancer survivors. Our work is driven by a staff of 30 volunteers, and a nearly non-existent budget. And the model is simple. It costs little for yoga studios to offer a space in their regularly instructed classes, but the aggregate impact of hundreds of yoga studios offering a few spaces is HUGE. So we work with studios across the US-- from California to Texas to Florida to NYC-- to make this possible. Each studio donates at a level that is comfortable and meaningful to them. Some studios donate 1 or 2 six-month passes, while other studios donate 20. We call this the Share a Mat Campaign.
Being disease-free does not mean being free of the disease. Many of our participants, even 5 years out of treatment, are still dealing with the symptoms of treatment, both psychological and physical. Many of them are finding that a yoga practices allows them reduce suffering and find peace, community, and strength.
The term yoga itself is a Sanskrit word meaning union. And that is exactly what Yoga Bear aims to do-- bring together a community in the mission of providing more health and wellness opportunities to cancer survivors.