Yoga For Cancer Survivors – A Teacher’s Story

Yoga For Cancer SurvivorsBy Jean Di Carlo-Wagner, Founder of

Before being diagnosed with colon cancer, I was misdiagnosed with depression.  After surgery  to remove 12 inches of colon, and I had weekly chemotherapy for late stage cancer in April 2003.

Six months later, October 28th, I celebrated being cancer free, however, my prognosis was not good. I retired early from a 25 year teaching career. At 47, I was clueless about what to do with my uncertain and limited future.

Before cancer treatments, I was an active exerciser:  yoga, weights and low-impact aerobics. During treatment, exercise consisted of getting dressed and attempting to make dinner for my teenage daughter and working husband. Everybody knows that chemotherapy makes you nauseous, tired and grumpy; at least that’s what happened to me.

Getting back to exercise was frightening and confusing.  I didn’t know where to start regaining stamina, strength and flexibility; not to mention how to regain inner balance and peace.  And my prognosis for a five year remission was grim. At close to 50, life seemed to be starting over, but where? and for how long?

Learning the ‘new normal’ took patience and loving attention of my starred and battle-tired body. I worked at home with a yoga tape, doing only the first ten minutes of the tape.  Basically, I was breathing and stretching.  It was a slow and tedious process. I thought to myself, “I can’t be the only one who needs a really gentle yoga class.” Ah-ha moment! Maybe I could help other cancer survivors.

Jean Di Carlo-WagnerI became a yoga teacher and started the first community-based, weekly yoga class for all cancer survivors in San Diego.  Soon, my journey to healing with yoga became a mission of love and hope to spread to others.

My Yoga for Cancer Survivors(YCS) class lead me to create an audio yoga cd. Overt the past five years, I have given away 3,000 YCS cd’s to survivors, hospitals and non-profits around the globe. The YCS class is now for free download and in English, Spanish and Slovene! Many other languages are being translated for future upload to the site.

I created the first and only online, International Advanced Yoga Teacher Training. I am now training other yoga teachers online: “The Art & Science of  Teaching  Yoga to Cancer Patients” and people in long-term treatment. My niche is specializing in the making yoga accessible to the most fragile of survivors. My 85 hour training started in January 2013. Many of my yoga clips and meditations are on Youtube, Soundcloud, Bandcamp and other social media for free download. Friend me on Facebook!

Now, I devote myself to being a yoga activist, directly supporting cancer patients and caregivers. I  have had many opportunities to be a cancer lobbyist and advocate in Washington, D.C.. Every friend I lose to cancer gives me more energy to keep fighting for medical advances, access to healthcare and prevention. My mission is to ‘heal cancer in the world through yoga.

“Healing is a state-of-mind and heart.”

What a gift today is and the opportunity to serve others is a blessing!
Jean Di Carlo-Wagner, M.A., Yoga Therapist, E-RYT 500

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  1. Hello! This article was amazing! I have a strong desire to get involved teaching yoga to cancer survivors. I am moving to San Diego from Hawaii in April and am reaching out to ask for some info and steps I should take to begin on this journey. I have my 200ryt, should I have another training too that focuses on cancer solely?
    Aloha and thank you again for this beautiful article!


    • Hi Danica,
      Please contact me when you come to San Diego. I’d love to have you attend class. There are many styles of YCS yoga, mine is very restorative. We are all constantly learning our craft in yoga. Continue to take classes and focus on learning about modifications, breathing and meditation. See you soon! Blessings, Jean


  2. I like the valuable info you provide in your articles. I’ll bookmark your blog and check again here regularly. I am quite sure I will learn a lot of new stuff right here! Good luck for the next!


  3. Tania Daran says:

    Dear Jean,

    Thank you so much for your inspiring article. I’m also a 30year old breast cancer surviver. I’ve practiced Vinyasa Yoga for 6 years and I’m beginning to take my 200hr teacher training certification to start a yoga studio for cáncer patientes and survivors as well. Where could I find more information about your teacher training programm?

    Thanks in advanced and blessings!


    • Hi Tania!
      Go girl! You can find the training on my website, My absolute #1 student I intend to attract is a person who like you! A survivor and yoga teacher! You have some inside knowledge that lends credibility to your students.

      Not that all yoga teachers for cancer patients need to have that background – there are simply too many survivors – 12million of us – to have only survivors teach us.

      A studio devoted to survivors – you may be the first in that pursuit! Awesome!

      Anything I can do to help, contact me – my email is easy to remember –



    • Please check my website


  4. I love this article. It’s so inspiring and a testament to the benefits of doing what you can do as a patient to improve your health. Now you are using your experience to help others. Blessings to you, Jean.


  5. Thank you for your inspiring article, many healing and joyful thoughts to you, Rika.


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