As she walked towards the oncology department of the Da Nang City General Hospital, her steps hastened at the sight of a crowd gathered along a hallway in front of the hospital auditorium.
At their feet were dozens of worn out sponge yoga mats that most people would have discarded by now, just by their looks. There were peelings all over the old, faded mats, and they’d become unusually thin.
The second yoga class of the morning was special. It was free, and the students were patients battling the last stages of cancer.
The class would generally last for an hour, ending at around 7.30am three days every week – Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – before the 25-year-old instructor rushed to her office at 8am.
“The reason I choose that class time is that it is no longer too cold in early morning, and not too hot either. It is cool, which is perfect for the patients,” Nhu told Viet Nam News.
A 70-year-old patient is one of two dozen regular students of this special yoga class. Suffering from breast cancer for the last ten years, the disease had metastasised all over her body. She’d had to undergo prolonged radiotherapy and her health had deteriorated day by day. Her arms stiffened, her body ached, and there were times she could not move her body an inch.
Now, she’s able to raise her arms higher than she could ever imagine. “It is so simple for anyone else. But it isn’t for someone one like me,” she said.
Nhu, a professional yoga trainer, knows very well that yoga exercises for ordinary people are simply impossible for cancer patients.
“They are in pain and their bodies are very weak. That’s why I teach them yoga therapy, with basic exercises of breathing and light moves which help to strengthen their muscles and organs,” Nhu said.
The first class opened on a November morning last year. Nhu is an office worker during the day and a yoga instructor at different gym centres in the evening. She had wanted to do something meaningful in the city, so she jumped at a friend’s suggestion that she teaches yoga to cancer patients.
Doctors and nurses at the hospital, to her pleasant surprise, were more than supportive of her idea. They told her that the cancer patients, who were very sick and in horrible pain all the time, spent most of their time in bed and hardly got any physical exercise.
“The hospital staff helped me a lot. They cleared out the chairs in the hallway and laid out the mats for the class as I did not have enough time to do it, running from my early morning class to the hospital,” Nhu said.
Some patients quit in the middle of the class as it hurt so bad when they tried to do the moves for the first time, the young trainer said.
“But time by time they got accustomed to the exercises, they felt their health getting better and their body movements got easier when practicing yoga. They started calling on others and encouraging others to join,” Nhu smiled.
The number of the class members varied each day, between 15 to 30, as not all patients could make it to the class on a regular basis.
“But if there are ones who want to practice, I will teach them,” Nhu said.
“I don’t know about the future, but yes, I will try to keep the class running as long as I can.”