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New Canaan Woman's Yoga Programs Help Cancer Survivors

Kathy Salvo, a yoga instructor, plans to ride 100 miles Saturday, July 26, in the Connecticut Challenge. Photo Credit: Contributed
Kathy Salvo, right, with Patty Matthews, left, and her daughter, Samantha, will ride 100 miles Saturday, July 26, in the Connecticut Challenge. Photo Credit: Contributed

NEW CANAAN, Conn. -- New Canaan’s Kathy Salvo realized the benefits yoga could have on cancer survivors long before it became mainstream. She is not surprised more programs and patients are beginning to see its benefits.

“I’m not surprised because I’ve seen what it’s able to do to people stress-wise in normal, everyday life,’’ said Salvo, who will ride 100 miles for the Connecticut Challenge on Saturday, July 26. “When I worked in the financial industry, I used to run to the studio after work. I was a transformed person. I could see the difference.” 

Readers can support Salvo by making a donation through her online fundraising page.

Salvo transitioned out of her financial career years ago but has always stayed devoted to yoga. She teaches yoga at Sarawati's Yoga Joint in New Canaan and has made arrangements with the Connecticut Challenge to work with patients who are unable to get to the CT Challenge Center for Survivorship in Southport on a consistent basis.

Salvo’s connection with cancer patients and yoga dates to when she was training for the Ironman World Championships in 1988. Her training partner, Barbara Norman, was diagnosed with breast cancer. Salvo and Norman took yoga classes together, and Norman fought off the cancer. Norman still practices yoga, swims and bikes.

“I could see it really was a stress relief,’’ Salvo said. “We would work on relaxing, opening up the muscles. There were times we’d do it to a DVD in front of a television.”

Simultaneously, a cousin of Salvo also fought cancer without incorporating yoga into her routine. “It was very difficult,’’ Salvo said. “She kept getting sicker, and the stress level kept rising. When I reflect on it now, stress was alleviated in one situation, and it wasn’t in another. At one point you have to say to yourself, 'This is working.'”

Salvo’s friend Patty Matthews was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2009. Salvo helped her turn to yoga to help her fight. Five years later, Matthews continues to battle cancer – and practice yoga.

“I don’t think I ever had that ‘aha’ moment,’’ Salvo said. “With Barbara, it was 5, 10, 15 years, and then it was joyous. With Patty, the fact that yoga was able to help bring her back was terrific.”

Salvo, who teaches restorative yoga, believes the practice helps reduce stress caused by cancer treatments. “It’s a physical and mental thing,’’ Salvo said. “There are different positions that can release the digestive tract. Just by moving people’s legs, it can get everything starting to go a little bit better. I don’t think we’ve even seen the tip of the iceberg yet to how beneficial it can be for cancer patients.”

Salvo will ride in the Challenge on Team Sarawati's, and is proud that her work with cancer patients helps them lead more rewarding, eventful lives. 

“It feels awesome; there is no greater gift,’’ she said. “Every time I go in to work with them, I feel energized. The fact that we’re helping them make improvements is rewarding.”

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