Yoga can be a powerful tool for healing simply because it strengthens the immune system.
For cancer patients, or those recently recovering from treatment, yoga can be especially empowering. Choosing to add something positive to life during the most difficult times can help you feel in control and build up both physical and mental stamina.
In yoga, we practice physical postures called asanas. These invigorate and balance all the systems within the body: circulatory, respiratory, digestive, nervous, musculoskeletal, endocrine, reproductive and urogenital systems. When one is out of balance, the whole body is thrown off. Yoga’s agenda is to balance them all.
The practice of yoga is personal and individual. Depending on the type of cancer and the patient’s individual situation, the practice of yoga can work in many different and beneficial ways. Yoga improves our breathing, posture, circulation, digestion, elimination, plus physical strength, stamina and flexibility.
When practicing yoga we do what we can without generating pain or passing judgment.
Yoga can also help us cope with the traumas that accompany a serious health diagnosis. As anyone afflicted by cancer knows it carries with it emotions which can be rather devastating at times – shock, fear, anger, guilt, anxiety and grief to name a few. The most effortless breathing, relaxation and meditation techniques can go a long way in helping us cope. It can also be a tremendous help in dealing with the anxiety of surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.
Cancer is stressful. Stress causes us to stay in the sympathetic nervous system realm of ‘fight or flight’ which releases cortisol, a stress hormone secreted by the adrenal gland. Over time, high levels may contribute to high blood pressure, disrupt sleep, negatively impact mood, reduce energy, contribute to diabetes and cause inflammation throughout the body.
Yoga to Reduce Stress
There are so many types of yoga that can help reduce stress, but have you ever heard of Restorative Yoga? It’s the practice of being still yet conscious in what we call a “yogi sleep.”
Our bodies inherently know how to move, but as stress creeps its way into our being, we often lose the ability to be still and feel calm. The body has an amazing and natural ability to self heal but not when we are in a constant state of stress. Restorative Yoga helps put the body and the mind back in harmony and balance. It’s a perfect remedy for ultimate health and wellbeing. As a bonus, a body in balance is more inclined to overcome adversity.
All forms of yoga focus on breathing. Learning to breathe teaches us to lower the diaphragm which engages the pelvic floor muscles. Yoga teaches us to breathe better so that our bodies are cleansed of toxins acquired through disease and medication.
Yoga for Strength
Yoga Flow classes tend to get our heart rate up which helps us feel vital and strong. Twisting postures compress, massage and squeeze organs related to the digestive system. This regulates the metabolism and sends fresh blood to the digestive organs so that they run more efficiently.
A practice of learning to breathe correctly, reduce stress and reintroduce the body and mind just may be the panacea for cancer recovery. It can also teach us to be grateful for our body, amazed by what it is capable of, and mindful of how important taking care of it is to our quality of life.
Yoga for Clarity
Meditative Yoga is an effective form of yoga for cancer which enables us to develop clarity and detachment. This allows us to accept the situation and process fear. Practicing yoga for lung cancer is effective in bringing relief to symptoms like chest pain and shortness of breath because it teaches us how to breathe effectively and efficiently.
The practice of yoga for patients in treatment during both chemotherapy and radiation has proven effective in facilitating the healing process and minimizing the negative side effects of cancer treatment. Above all yoga teaches us to practice acceptance and self love. Cancer patients and survivors can’t get enough acceptance and love. What better place to start than the self.
Namaste, “the divine in me honors the divine in you.”