When instructor Darcy Cooke isn’t teaching a yoga class, she works in the field of surgical treatment of breast cancer. As she grew to know and care for the women suffering from the illness, she was also training and growing her practice in the field of yoga.
Cooke was teaching a “Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors” class at the hospital she worked at, until she began teaching at Bhava Yoga Studio in Albuquerque, New Mexico, co-owned by Sarah Gorham and Marisol Brito.
Gorham and Brito offered Cooke space to teach the class at their location, because they saw a need to reach out to specialty populations, like those with illnesses. The class focuses on the areas most affected by the treatments for cancer, through stretching and unique poses.
“It is a really gentle class with attention to the upper body,” said Cooke. “There’s a lot of scar tissue that develops after treatment, especially for some women. We don’t really do inversions. We do a lot of shoulder openings and working on range of motion.”
Brito explained through the class, they aim to be inclusive and offer yoga to anyone who has the desire to practice, no matter what complications they may have. “Sometimes these specialty populations are limited in their funds and limited emotionally in their existence,” said Brito. “We try to balance the offering with who is interested and what we can do for them. Offering [the class] free is okay with us because what we have done is expand our reach. More importantly, we have provided a service that is needed, wanted and missing in some cases.”
Bhava Yoga Studio has all intentions of creating more unique classes for specialty populations in their future. Gorham explained they currently offer a yoga class for those with scoliosis, people that suffer from brain injuries, a yoga in Spanish class and more. Gorham and Brito try to give their instructors the option of creating these classes based on trainings they have received or groups of people they happen to work with frequently.
“When the teacher has a special skill, noticing that and giving them the space and ability to utilize that skill is important,” said Gorham. “All of our teachers in these special programs are specifically trained for these groups.”
Marketing these unique classes can sometimes be a challenge. “For our ‘Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors’ class, most of them aren’t looking for a yoga class, so they wouldn’t normally be reaching out to us from our normal means of marketing,” said Brito. “They are very hard-to-get-to students, so we have to rely a lot on the teacher and the relationships they have cultivated outside of the studio with this particular population.”
In terms of where this class could go in the future, Gorham said they will start to collect data and see if partnerships could be a possibility. “It is new to us, so we have plans to gather data to see how it is going and then hopefully start connecting with organizations around town that are supporting the groups that we are working with,” said Gorham.