Breast Cancer Awareness Series

Yoga class helps women feel stronger as they fight

CREATED Oct 1, 2012

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BROOKFIELD - It is breast cancer awareness month and we are bringing you a special series of stories covering new ways women with the diagnosis are trying to fight, beat, and survive breast cancer. 

Today, the story of a special yoga class at Elmbrook Memorial Hospital. 

Retirement caused a spark of sorts for Nancy Williams, "The only thing I wanted to do was teach yoga to cancer survivors."

Williams had been practicing yoga for 16 years, but she decided to go after her dream.  She took classes, hundreds of hours of classes, to gain specialized training to not only teach yoga, but to teach it to people with cancer.  She was trying to help people with broken bodies feel whole again.

It didn't take long for word to spread about the option for an alternative medicine approach to feeling stronger while fighting cancer.

Susy Engelbardt, Milwaukee, was diagnosed with breast cancer two years ago.  "One lump was cancer, then they did some more tests and I found out I had two more."

Engelbardt says she quickly decided she would try anything to make her days easier, but she was NOT a yogi.

She added, "I was a little nervous, 'cuz, you see these people on TV doing yoga and they are SO flexible! (She laughs)  It's like, there is no way I can do that!"

Williams does one-on-one chats with everyone before they join her practice and she promises modifications to make sure everyone has the best experience possible.  Williams says, "There are a number of postures as well, that are really modified, just to help us be aware of the effects of chemotherapy."

Once Engelbardt stared the classes, it did not take long for her to start feeling different.  She says she noticed it while driving home from her first practice, "Wow.  I'm like, at peace.  I couldn't believe it.  I couldn't believe that in an hour you could feel like that.  But, you really can."

Engelbardt kept going and her range of motion got better, she slept better, and she felt more calm.

Williams has heard positive reviews from many of her students.  Maybe that's why her classes are full.  Williams had a sense of pride in her voice as she said, "They go from the weakness of treatment, to a feeling of 'I can do this.'"

Engelbardt agrees, saying, "Now I actually think I could do a regular yoga class."  Engelbardt says no matter where she does her yoga she knows she will not quit. 

And Williams says she's found another spark, the idea of bringing yoga practices for cancer patents to other hospitals besides Elmbrook Memorial.