Blogs > Yoga for cancer recovery

Yoga for cancer recovery

  • 7 Min. Read
  • 05/14/14

As a yoga teacher, I’d always known of the incredible benefits of yoga for the body, mind, and spirit. Until I was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer, however, I had no idea how much yoga would help me weather the toughest time of my life. I credit teaching and practicing yoga as vital components in my journey back to radiant health. In January 2010, I truly felt that I was living my dream. I had exited corporate America the year prior and was happily balancing teaching yoga full-time with a blossoming writing career. I was in a relationship with the man of my dreams, living close to the ocean. To put it simply, I was happy. Out of the blue, I found a lump in my breast. I was shocked and devastated, especially because I had a clear mammogram three months earlier. At 43, I was healthy, fit,  and felt invincible.

Over the course of that year, I endured three surgeries, six rounds of aggressive chemotherapy and almost two months of daily radiation. I balanced out this assault on my body with a primarily plant-based diet filled with anti-oxidants, daily exercise, acupuncture and most importantly, yoga. My doctors often commented that I was their “superwoman patient” because I never got really nauseous through chemo and seemed to maintain a comparatively high level of energy during treatment. Don’t get me wrong: many days I was exhausted and despondent. Despite the fluctuations in my energy levels, I continued to teach most of my yoga classes and got certified to teach Yoga for Cancer Therapy while undergoing chemotherapy myself.

Cancer attacks your body, but it also attacks your mental well-being. Conventional medicine is aimed at destroying the physical symptoms of the cancer, but can fail to address the significant effects cancer has on the mind and spirit. Yoga addresses the entire person. The specialized yoga for cancer recovery classes I offer are designed to both create strength and flexibility and encourage relaxation. Additionally, my intention is to give my students the tools to be empowered with the ability to do something for their own health. Practicing yoga during treatment and recovery will provide the following benefits:

  • Learning to handle side-effects of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation
  • Experiencing healing techniques for the mind, body and spirit
  • Boosting energy, improving mood, learning relaxation and breathing techniques to combat fatigue, stress and pain
  • Restoring flexibility, strength, and range of motion, and enhancing lymphatic flow, digestion and circulation

I am passionate about sharing this gift with others going through any type of cancer. In addition to teaching Yoga for Cancer Recovery classes, I created a Yoga for Cancer Recovery DVD to reach a broader audience and facilitate safe yoga practice at home, as well as recently publishing my memoir Come Ride with Me Along the Big C to help others on this journey by sharing my story. It worked for me and can work for you.


Claire Petretti Marti, RYT 500, E-RYT 200, is a yoga instructor who has been practicing, studying and teaching yoga since 1999. Like many fitness enthusiasts, she was initially drawn to yoga for its physical benefits of strength, balance and flexibility. Once she realized that serenity, peace of mind and a general sense of happiness resulted from practice, she was hooked. In January 2010, she was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer and found that practicing yoga offered her a sanctuary in which to heal. Ms. Petretti Marti’s experience inspired her to earn her Yoga for Cancer Therapy certification, and she now teaches classes for people living with the disease. In 2011, she released her Yoga for Cancer Recovery DVD to help anyone living with cancer practice yoga safely in the privacy of their own home. The DVD is featured on Gaiam TV, Amazon and her website. In April 2014, she published her breast cancer memoir, Come Ride with Me Along the Big C, to help others coping with cancer. Ms. Petretti Marti is the co-creator and chairman of Yoga for Hope San Diego, the largest yoga fundraiser in Southern California. She and her husband recently relocated to Denver.