Yoga for Cancer
Cancer patients often find themselves in distracted state
of mind—bombarded by contradictory, information, subjected to
invasive, painful procedures, and not-always-compassionate medical care. When
our minds are so grievously disturbed, we may find it impossible to make crucial
decisions or relate satisfactorily to our family and friends. Practicing
relaxation help in reliving tension. When
the tension is released, energy can flow more easily in the body and allow
patients to experience a sense of well-being and strength—a balance of body,
mind, and spirit.
A new research (ANI Sep 2, 2011) from the University of Texas MD
Anderson Cancer Center, has indicated that for women with breast cancer
undergoing radiation therapy,
unique benefits beyond fighting
While simple stretching exercises improved fatigue, patients who participated
in yoga that incorporated yogic breathing,
meditation and relaxation techniques into their treatment plan experienced
improved physical functioning, better general health and lower cortisol (stress
hormone) levels. They also were better able to find meaning in their cancer
The findings are the latest in an ongoing effort to scientifically validate
the age-old belief that mind-body interventions have a beneficial impact on the
health of cancer patients. The research was conducted in collaboration with
India's largest yoga research institution, Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana
Samsthana in Bangalore, India.
Not only has yoga proved helpful for
breast cancer patients, it has also shown promise with other cancer
treatments. In a 2004 study, Cohen used Tibetan yoga—healing system that
incorporates gentle exercises, breathing techniques, and massage for reducing
stress and balancing emotions—as the intervention method with women suffering
from cancer of the lymphatic system.
Researchers are also studying the impact of yoga on brain tumour
patients. “I think yoga’s simplicity, accessibility, safety, low cost and, most
importantly its effectiveness are propelling its use as a relaxation method for
cancer patients,” says Nancy Schalk, director, therapeutic yoga programme for
cancer patients at the IU Simon Cancer Center in the US.
There is no doubt that yoga improves:
quality of life during cancer treatment, even in terminal cancers such as
In some cases, it can even raise mesothelioma life expectancy.
addition to promoting healing, it can also minimize the
stress and side effects
of chemo and radiation.
A gentle yoga practice during cancer treatment helps the
body to process and alleviate toxins more efficiently, improves circulation,
lowers pain levels and also reduces anxiety and depression.
As we engage our physical selves in the precise body gestures of
yoga, our minds come along, growing accustomed to
focusing on the affairs of this moment and leaving worries and future-thinking
behind. As we breathe and meditate, our minds grow more clear and steady.
The physical benefits of yoga seem obvious to a cancer patient. Range of motion,
strength, relaxation, and a sense of
bodily well-being are enhanced by practicing the
postures. But there is an additional, more mystical, benefit of yoga.
Depending on what parts of your body are affected, what type of cancer you have
(or had), and your physical abilities, your practice will be specific to you.
You may not be able to safely or comfortably do the posture the way the teacher
or someone else is doing it. That's okay. Modify or change the position so it
feels good for you. You will find out what works for you, what you are able to
do, and what helps you to move in a positive direction.
When you are practicing a posture, do what you can without creating more pain.
You may feel discomfort, but going to the point of sharp pain is not going to
benefit you. Sometimes the postures are easier if you don't try as hard - if you
actually do less. Ask yourself if you can let go of something: it could be
tension or holding in the body, or it could be an expectation or judgment you
have about yourself.
Dissolving tension with Pranayam
The term pranayama combines prana, breath, with yama, meaning extension or
control, and describes a crucial practice in yoga. This "science of the breath"
involves attention to inhalation, exhalation, and retention or holding.
When we are frightened, we hold our breath or breathe shallowly or raggedly. To
open up the chest again, one can practice breathing techniques based on
pranayama, such as abdominal breathing, deep breathing, bellows breathing (with
forceful abdominal exhalations), and alternate-nostril breathing. (As breath
practices can have powerful effects on the body, they should be learned from a
qualified yoga instructor, for safety's sake.) Done properly, they can dissolve
stress and emotional excitation, freeing the
mind from anxiety
the practices of concentration, (Dharana) and meditation (Dhyana) which yoga
affords us, a patient can focus and let go of nagging preoccupations.
Asanas like the Child's Pose might need to modified according to the
patient. Asanas help to correct the vertebral column and they balance the
Dated 21 March 2013