Functional Healing: How One Man Overcame Cancer Four Times with Yoga & Meditation

Amit Gal Anon is the creator of Functional Anatomy together with physical therapist Gill Solberg, both from Israel. When we first came across this cutting-edge 3D software that illustrates the anatomical functions of the human body during yoga workouts, we were floored. It’s a truly impressive achievement, which makes the ins and out of functional anatomy as it applies to alignment in yoga postures easy and intuitive to access.

Little did we know that the human story behind the software is even more impressive and inspiring. Amit has battled, and survived, cancer four times, and during this ordeal, his love of movement played a key role in overcoming the disease.

During his first bout of cancer in 1995, Amit discovered yoga, which not only stretched and strengthened his weakened muscles, but increased his spirit and mental capabilities.

With a natural love of movement instilled in him as a child, Amit knew that he had to move his body to revive his appetite and regain his strength. He applied his background as a fitness trainer, and also started reading yoga books. Slowly, he started a daily practice of stretching and strengthening the muscles that had grown tight and short during chemotherapy.

“After stretching, I felt like new life came to my body,” he told YogaUOnline on the phone from his home in Israel. “I saw in the books that I must do meditation to clear my thoughts because I was very nervous and stressed. The doctors told me I didn’t have too much time. So I started to train my brain, also.”

Stretching his muscles and training his brain to think positively got Amit through his first encounter with cancer. When he had recovered from his treatments and the tumor had disappeared, he went on to study sports science and kinesiology in college.

A year later, however, the cancer returned.

Amit continued to exercise and practice yoga during treatments, despite the severe side effects of the cancer treatments: weight loss and vomiting. He also took up painting, a more creative practice.

“I wanted to fill myself with colors,” said Amit. “I bought some colors and drew them on the white wall of my room. I found that I have a gift for painting. Then I started to paint on the computer with Photoshop, and I discovered 3D animation. So I painted in the 3D world.”

This time, after successfully defeating the cancer, Amit returned to school to study digital graphic art.

Four years later, the cancer returned for a third time.

Amit had an established meditation, practice which had helped his recovery from the first two bouts with cancer. This time, during surgery and chemotherapy, he started using guided affected imagery to manage the pain and uplift his spirit.

“I sat beside the sea with my mind in the sky. I imagined all the light coming into my body and making the cancer disappear. I can tell you now, it worked. I still do it when I feel I must connect to the universe.”

Again, through movement, meditation and the power of positive thinking, Amit defeated the cancer. He went on to teach anatomy and kinesiology. He also found a new mission in life: to help his students understand how muscles move. He brought together his anatomy background and graphic design skills, and in 2004 he published a CD-ROM study source on the anatomy of movement and exercise.

With this new development in his healing process and career, it would seem that all was perfect in Amit’s world. But two years later, he was struck by cancer a fourth time. The tumor in his neck was removed through surgery alone, with no chemotherapy or radiation treatments. The yoga and guided imagery had made him somewhat more resilient, even if it didn’t completely prevent the cancer.

He recuperated from this round of treatment by swimming and surfing, and he also continued to modify and adjust the anatomy learning tools he’d been developing between bouts of cancer.

This is when it all came together: his love of movement, his artistic talents, his anatomical knowledge, and the strength and resilience gained through surviving cancer four times. Amit thinks of his Functional Anatomy software as his way of giving back to yoga after all he’d received from the practice.

“Yoga is amazing,” said Amit. “If you take all the benefits of yoga, the spirit and movement is related to the body. The yoga connected my mind-body to my spirit. This was the gift that I got from yoga. Now I’m able to give back after everything I received.”

Roseanne Harvey is a writer, editor and geeky girl who lives and loves life in Montreal. Her popular blog It’s All Yoga Baby is about yoga and other things, with a mission to spark investigation into the relationship between yoga, the body and popular culture. Active offline as well as online, Roseanne is a co-director of Yoga Festival Montreal and the co-editor (with Carol Horton) of 21st Century Yoga: Culture, Politics & Practice.

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