Yoga for cancer: befriending the body

Yoga for Cancer Classcropped
Yoga for Cancer classes focus on breath work and body awareness. The classes are available for patients and caregivers.

Yoga for Cancer addresses cancer head-on. “We’re not afraid to say the “C” word (cancer) in class, and we encourage each other through compassionate self-awareness. Unfortunately, many of us have been touched by cancer. This class is a therapeutic way for people to deal with their fear, depression, anxiety, and fatigue,” says class instructor, Stephanee Howell. Yoga improves both physical and emotional strength.

Stephanee Howell teaches “Yoga for Cancer” which she calls “Yoga from the Heart,” and is offered through the Sentara Cancer Network – she has been a practitioner for fifteen plus years. She is a retired critical care nurse who is currently studying to get her masters in Transpersonal Psychology, a spiritually based study of psychology. Ms. Howell has a spiritual desire to give back. “My goal is to encourage ongoing physical, mental, and spiritual practice that builds community amongst cancer patients and their caregivers.”

In this yoga class, Stephanee focuses primarily on breath work and body awareness. For students with cancer, there are several physical health benefits including: building bone mass, improved cardiovascular and immune systems, lymph flow and deep relaxation. Stephanee says that yoga can be very healing. “It’s a way for patients and caregivers to reframe their journey and to feel empowered.” The class fosters a safe environment for students to share their personal stories with other patients and creates a sense of community, a natural extension of a support group atmosphere.

Stephanee likes to introduce herself to registrants before their first class, to welcome them, to learn more about them, and most importantly, to establish trust. The format of the class is one hour and fifteen minutes – “the first fifteen minutes are important for centering, relaxation and breathwork.” She encourages students to introduce one another and sets the mood with music, props, and lighting. “I start and end the class with a reading, stating of intentions, and meditation.”

Each class follows this format:

  • Socializing
  • Centering
  • Reading
  • Intentions
  • Meditation
  • Breathing
  • Warm-ups
  • Strength Building
  • Balance
  • Restorative Pose
  • Rest Pose
  • Reading
  • Intentions
  • Socializing

Yoga for Cancer is for patients and caregivers of all experience levels – beginners are always welcome. Stephanee says, “I want my students to practice at their own personal pace that respects where they are physically and emotionally. Once students are able to cultivate self-awareness, they learn to befriend their body in a new way – and that’s where the healing begins.”

Students may register for free online or by calling (757) 816-4199.



I’ve worked in Corporate Communications at Sentara Healthcare for the past 25 years. I am the editor of the Sentara Today blog, working behind the scenes to capture inspiring stories about our employees and patients. Currently, I am also working on Sentara Nurse, a new blog we just launched. I’ve had the opportunity to be closely involved in helping preserve our organization’s historical archives. In my spare time, when I am not blogging, I enjoy spending time with my husband and three children, reading, cooking, and practicing yoga as often as I can.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>