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Stretching for Health

When two of Laurie Leister's students at the Anahata Center for Yoga and Wellness in Leesburg were diagnosed with cancer this year, Leister knew she wanted to do something for them.

"I was trying to figure out how to channel my energy," Leister said.

Deborah Lynn, who was diagnosed in January, and Mia Shearer, who was diagnosed in June, are both long-term students of Leister's and she knew she could not just sit by. Instead, she wanted to do something to honor them and their fight against cancer.

"We are trying to reach out to people," she said. "We want to figure out how to support people in the community more."

Another of her students, Barbara Scott, connected Leister with The Brad Kaminsky Foundation, an Ashburn-based foundation dedicated to brain tumor research. Out of that connection came the Living with Cancer All-Day Yoga Benefit, a chance for yoga students as well as people living with cancer to help raise money for cancer research.

"I thought [the foundation] was a great way to direct the benefit," Leister said. "And this was a way for us to do something really crazy and fun."

OCT. 21, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., all of the proceeds from the center's classes will go to The Brad Kaminsky Foundation, which was founded by Ashburn resident Lisa Millar in memory of her brother who died from a brain tumor of Feb. 10, 2001.

For the foundation, the event is the perfect way to continue the work that it does.

"[We are] very grateful that we will be the recipients of the donations so that we can continue to support research for brain cancer," Millar said.

The day of the benefit, the Anahata Center will offer regular yoga classes, as well as kids yoga for children under 12 and partners yoga. To take each class participants are asked to make a $20 donation to The Brad Kaminsky Foundation.

Participants will also be eligible for door prizes, which the Anahata Center is just beginning to collect from local residents and vendors.

"We're getting products from beauty salons, private yoga sessions, massages," Leister said. "Local businesses are welcome to donate anything."

The event is open to anyone who wishes to participate, Leister said, and no previous experience with yoga is needed.

"The partners yoga would be really good for beginners," she said. "This is just supposed to be for fun, something different to do to raise money."

In addition to regular yoga classes, the Anahata Center will also be offering metta meditation, a class where students direct their words and feelings in a group setting.

"It is really very powerful," Leister said.

There will also be a Living with Cancer class so people who have cancer can come and do yoga therapy.

"The class is designed very differently to support people living with cancer," Leister said. "It is not designed for physical activity of flexibility."

BOTH LEISTER, who has been a yoga therapist for many years, and Millar said yoga can be very helpful to people who have been diagnosed with cancer, from supporting the immune system to helping calm the emotions of patients.

"They are teaching classes in hospitals all over the country," Leister said. "It can be very beneficial."

Millar said that while the diversity of cancers can make for different symptoms for each patient there are some benefits that can help all cancers.

"[Yoga can help] dealing with anxiety related to the disease, upcoming surgery or chemo, and managing stress related to still living life to its fullest," she said.

Recently, the National Cancer Institute gave a grant to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas to study the effect of Tibetan yoga on lessening fatigue in cancer patients.

"The benefits of yoga for all people are numerous," Millar said, "stress management, proper posture leading to proper breathing, calming of the nervous system, boosting the immune system, improved circulation and flexibility to name a few."

The Anahata Center will continue the Living with Cancer classes through the fall, with classes Nov. 4, Nov. 18, Dec. 2 and Dec. 9, at 11 a.m.