Yoga, Women, and Cancer: Experiences in a Specialized Yoga Program
Cowling, Angela Elizabeth
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The purpose of this project was to better understand the experiences of women with cancer who participated in a specialized yoga program at a studio in Toronto. The focus on this particular location served as a case study of such specific physical activity programming for special populations. This study examined who participated in this program and explored their reasons for participating in efforts to better understand their thoughts on health, including the imperative to be healthy (i.e., healthism), illness, physical activity (specifically yoga), and the interrelationships between such issues in their lives. Using qualitative research methods, semi-structured interviews were completed in order to gain a better understanding of the lived experiences of women who have participated in yoga classes while having or recovering from an illness. Participants consisted of five women in remission from cancer who practiced yoga prior to their diagnoses, during treatment, and throughout recovery. Findings indicated participants' motivations for practice centered on achieving holistic health and experiences during the cancer journey were greatly influenced by their socioeconomic privilege. In addition, results showed an overwhelming focus on positivity and the adoption of healthism. Future implications of this research may be to modify existing specialized yoga programs and provide recommendations on the use of yoga in cancer care, as well as consider how to approach the influential "tyranny of cheerfulness" in cancer culture and combat dominant healthist ideals. In addition, this project will contribute to the existing body of sociocultural research in health and physical activity and increase knowledge of experiences in this population.