The Benefits Of Yoga For Cancer Patients

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Finding out you have cancer may be the worst news a person can have, yet simply understanding it can and will get better is a good start in fighting the battle. 

Bracing for the various treatment options and the roller coaster of emotions that come with it, more and more cancer patients are drawn to yoga as a way to condition their body, mind, and spirit for the difficult times ahead.

Let’s explore what it has to offer.

First, A Little Bit About Yoga

Yoga provides the practitioner (or yogi) the opportunity to clear the mind through a variety of poses or postures called asanas. These are essential in preparing the body to achieve a meditative sense of self-awareness.

Asanas involve different kinds of stretching and low-impact physical exercises paired with correct breathing (pranayama) and body alignment. Yoga has been studied and proven to be beneficial for many health conditions, such as back pain, stress, and mental health problems.

Studies from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) also show how patients benefit from yoga when used along conventional medical treatments for cancer, asthma, diabetes, drug addiction, high blood pressure, heart disease and many others.

Today, estimates show over 250 million yoga practitioners around the world, making it a multi-billion dollar business. There are countless yoga classes, mats, outfits, and equipment available for every kind of personality, and it is still evolving.

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How Yoga And Cancer Intertwine

Yoga is now widely accepted as an alternative approach to wellness and health, according to the US National Center for Comprehensive and Integrative Health, yoga is “the sixth commonly used comprehensive health practice among adults in the US”. 

The popularity of yoga had even reached the halls of the United Nations when it announced back in December 2014 that June 21st is the International Day of Yoga. It affirms yoga’s significant role in “changing lifestyles and creating consciousness to address climate change”.

Now, numerous studies have shown the various benefits that patients can have through yoga when it comes to cancer patients. The key in this is what they call finding your centre, or the mind-body integration.

It involves coming to terms with your personal intentions, grounding, and focus to achieve a sense of total relaxation enabling you to get through with your cancer treatment. Here are ways in which yoga will help your cancer journey.

The Benefits

Provides Therapeutic Support

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Instead of going to yoga studios where you know no one, seek out a small yoga community composed of cancer patients, survivors, and their immediate caregivers or families.

Nobody understands a cancer patient better than a community of cancer patients, survivors, and their families. There are many kinds of restorative or therapeutic yoga classes that also act as cancer support communities.

Whether newly diagnosed, undergoing cancer treatment, in remission or recovery, practicing yoga as a group, breathing and mutually supporting each other, is extremely valuable and therapeutic. 

Community yoga of cancer patients is an environment that will help you cultivate acceptance, gratitude, and positive outlook in the whole treatment or recovery process.

Improves Physical & Emotional Pain

Physical and emotional pain is difficult to manage on your own. But with yoga, especially with a cancer support community, it allows you to listen to your body in ways that will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses both in body and mind.

The American Cancer Society (ACS) encourages yoga and meditation as part of integrative oncology. And according to a study of the Society for Integrative Oncology, “80% of breast cancer patients in the US use complementary therapies following a breast cancer diagnosis”. 

It assessed over 80 different therapies and recommended meditation, yoga, and relaxation for anxiety and other mood disorders common to breast cancer patients. The ACS also noted (about yoga) “with regular practice, it has been shown to reduce chronic pain, anxiety, high blood pressure, PTSD symptoms, blood cortisol levels,” to name a few.

Another mentioned therapy that may help is the use of essential oils (aromatherapy), these potent plant extracts have powerful effects on anxiety, pain, blood pressure, and much more. You can read more about essential oils on Nifty Wellness.

Improves Eating Habits

For a cancer patient to get yoga’s benefits in a holistic way, changing eating habits is essential. With the deepening practice of yoga, many practitioners turn to vegetarian or vegan diets because it helps them execute the poses, thereby achieving more benefits from yoga.

However, this does not follow all yoga practitioners all the time. Whether it’s personal preference, health restrictions, or other reasons. What will surely start to make more sense is buying fresh produce from local farmers – free range, and organic as possible.

One study from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center showed “practicing yoga regularly may help eating habits.”

Most yogis learn to be “mindful eaters.” They become more aware of their feelings of hunger and fullness. 

These healthier diet choices can help your cancer journey in many ways, from strengthening the body to reducing anxiety and improving pain resistance.

Conclusion

We hope you found this information useful and that it will help you go through this journey. Keep in mind that yoga practice is a personal journey. Hence, it should always be treated as a personal work-in-progress process. If you can’t get the pose right, or you’re not feeling any benefits, it’s just a matter of time. Stick to it and within a few weeks or months, you’ll feel way better. Keep your head up. Namaste!

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