Montreal cancer patients rally to save yoga class

The Happy Tree Yoga centre has been offering gentle yoga classes to cancer patients for free with the support of Cedars CanSupport Foundation.

Patients turn to crowdfunding to keep Westmount classes going free of charge

Happy Tree's director, Melanie Richards, is still offering classes for free as a volunteer. (CBC)

A group of cancer patients in Montreal is hoping to raise money to keep free classes at Happy Tree Yoga centre in Westmount going.

The centre has been offering gentle classes to cancer patients for free with the support of Cedars CanSupport Foundation for several years. 

But the funding has been cut now that classes will be offered instead at the McGill University Health Centre's Glen site.

Helen Rossiter, interim director at Cedars, says the funding was diverted in an effort to centralize all the organization's services and make classes available to hospitalized patients.

Gentle yoga helps to reduce stress, stiffness

Cancer patients Anne Gal and Nancy Woo take gentle yoga classes at Happy Tree. (CBC)

Not all the patients who take advantage of the yoga classes are happy with that plan.

"We sort of associate the hospital with a lot of the stressors," says cancer patient Nancy Woo. 

"So unfortunately, it's a place that actually causes stress." 

She says the hospital classes lack the personal touch she gets at Happy Tree. 

"In one of the other classes at the Glen, it was always a different teacher. And so they never really got to know us," she said. "I really think that this yoga class is actually part of my treatment."

I really think that this yoga class is actually part of my treatment.- Nancy Woo, cancer patient

Anne Gal, another patient who participates in the yoga classes, says she finds they help to alleviate some symptoms.

"It helps with all the joint stiffness and pains because of the medication we have to take. And it just calms you and relaxes you so much," she told CBC.

Happy Tree launches crowdfunding campaign

Melanie Richards is the director of Happy Tree Yoga centre in Westmount. (CBC)

Happy Tree's director, Melanie Richards, is still offering classes for free as a volunteer, but says she can't do much more without money to pay teachers.

"They're people who are doing this out of the bottom of their heart but that also need to pay their rent, and feed themselves and their families."

Richards says many of her students can't afford to pay, so she's launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for them.

With files from Emily Brass