ShareYoga recently interviewed Halle Tecco, who is the founder of YogaBear. YogaBear is a special service that matches cancer survivors with yoga studios. Halle came up with the idea when she realized that most classes aren’t filled to capacity and so it wouldn’t cost studios much to put that extra space to good use and allow cancer survivors to attend. This is a wonderful story about one yogi taking inspiration on the mat and into the real world. The interview follows below and we’ve included a short video about the program in the box to the right.
What is the Yoga Bear program? How does it work?
Yoga Bear is a 501(c)3 non-profit dedicated to providing more opportunities of health and wellness to cancer survivors. We currently have thirty volunteers across the country working tirelessly towards this goal. We also have over 125 participating yoga studios involved in our ‘Share a Mat’ campaign, that provide survivors with a social outlet and relaxing place to engage in healthy activity. Here’s how it works: Yoga studios donate memberships to Yoga Bear. Cancer survivors apply for these spots and we match them with a yoga studio in their neighborhood, based on types and levels of classes offered.
Other programs include coordinating volunteer instructors to teach in hospitals around the US and hosting events, like the Yoga for Cancer workshop we held in January.
Where did you come up with the name?
I was actually on the mat when I came up with the name. I thought it was catchy and playful. Although we work really hard, we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
What was your inspiration for the idea?
In college I interned at Columbia Hospital, where I was working on a music therapy project. This is when I became interested in ‘alternative’ therapies like music, art, language, and yoga. My boss, a PhD in neurophysiology and neuropsychology, knew I loved yoga and shared with me one of the early western studies of yoga for cancer. Anyhow, the idea for Yoga Bear marinated and evolved for a year or two, until it crystallized in 2006.
Once you had the idea, what did you do first to get it going?
I researched and read everything. I talked to as many people as possible from cancer survivors to oncologists to yogis. There are some amazing programs out there, so we didn’t want to duplicate work. We formed strong partnerships and got driven, passionate people on board.
How many people have participated so far? What is the feedback you’ve received from them?
We have had hundreds of survivors take classes through YOGABEAR. Most of them are new to yoga and an overwhelming majority find the experience transformational.
Each of our participants takes a pre-program survey as well as a followup survey 10 weeks later. This survey was put together by one of our advisors who is a professor of psychology at Stanford, as well as our volunteer researcher Vanessa. The survey measures several common symptoms of cancer, and we hope to share our results later this summer.
What are your future plans for the program? What are your hopes and dreams for it?
We hope to obtain enough grants and donations to continue to expand our services. We are currently in 10 regions, but hope to grow our program to every region with a yoga studio. We’ve also talked about expanding our services to people with other illnesses such as HIV and heart disease.
If someone is interested in donating their time, money, products or classes (studios), how can they do this? What helps the most?
Every bit helps! Studios are welcome to learn more about being a partner studio through our website. We also enthusiastically accept donations.
How can ShareYoga readers join the YogaBear community or receive more information?
Make a profile on our website: start a conversation on our forum and meet others who are passionate about yoga and healing. We’re also on Facebook and Twitter where you can stay up to date and help spread the word.
Latest posts by halle (see all)
- Yoga Bear: Non profit provides free yoga to cancer survivors - April 6, 2009