Encouraging Patients In Journey Of Self Care

Cancer Resource Center CompleteLife yoga therapist Kelsey Underwood sees her role as one that encourages patients to take an active role in the healing process. 

Not only do they have the same first name, but patient Kelsey Wilson and yoga therapist Kelsey Underwood have the same goal. They want to move one step closer to improved health.

Wilson was admitted to IU Health University Hospital for complications with cystic fibrosis. Underwood, who recently joined IU Health’s Cancer Resource Center is part of a CompletLife team that helps patients focus on a holistic approach to healing – mind, body, and spirit.  She has been a yoga instructor for more than five years and is in the process of getting her masters degree in yoga therapy.

Yoga is new to Wilson, 21.

Sitting cross-legged on her bed, Wilson listened to Underwood’s instructions: “Breath deep. Feel your belly rise and fall as you inhale and exhale. Notice your shoulders relaxing.”

The exercise is part of Underwood’s professional commitment to helping patients take an active role in their healing process. Often that starts with relaxing and regaining strength.

“The three main components of yoga therapy are physical posture, breath work and meditation. So based on the patient’s ability and goals, I’ll do a combination of one or two of those techniques or just focus on one,” said Underwood. She first studied yoga therapy under her mother, Mary Duryea, a retired hospital physician who discovered yoga therapy as a second career. Her father, Ed Kraemer is also a family physician and a yoga instructor. 

As an undergraduate at the University of Missouri, Underwood earned a bachelor of science in health science. “I knew I wanted to work in a hospital setting. We have an amazing staff here and integrating yoga is a great way to bolster that support and help patients connect with mind, body and spirit,” said Underwood. Her primary focus is working with oncology patients but she will work with other patients individually.

Group chair yoga for patients is offered at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. on Tuesdays. Gentle hatha yoga is offered for caregivers and staff at 5 p.m. on Tuesdays.

Underwood’s voice was soft and soothing as she spoke to Wilson. “I’ve been told it’s a grounding voice. A lot of my job is just holding space for patients to have their own experience and be active in their own healing. Yoga therapy gives them lots of autonomy to be part of the healing for themselves,” said Underwood. “I notice their breathing rate slows down and as they take deep breaths, their body begins to relax. It’s an overall sense of contentment.”

More about Underwood:

  • She was born and raised in Kansas City, the middle child of three.
  • She has been married to John Underwood for two years. He is a medical resident at IU School of Medicine.
  • She and her husband have two Siberian Huskies. They enjoy spending time outdoors – especially paddle boarding on Eagle Creek Reservoir with the dogs.

— By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
   Reach Banes via email at
 T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.