Yoga has been a rich healing art in India for centuries. More recently, yoga has become the subject of increasing attention from the American medical community, as clinical research studies evaluate and confirm its many benefits. For cancer survivors, yoga can be especially helpful in managing the side effects of treatment, as well as some of the more difficult emotional aspects of cancer.
Our Western society sometimes mistakenly views yoga as limited to stretching and practicing difficult poses. However, this ancient art is a combination of practices, including physical postures, breathing techniques, meditation, and deep relaxation. Each of these practices offers physiological benefits, which in turn support optimal conditions for recovery.
Yoga postures and movements can induce many physiological changes in the body, by combating inflammation; supporting the immune system; helping with lymph fluid drainage, thus reducing the incidence and severity of lymphedema; and reducing side effects like anxiety and sleep disorders, which may improve chemotherapy response. WOWZA!
When I went through chemotherapy, I found that yogic breathing techniques helped my body cope with stress and helped calm my nervous system BIG time. Did you know that slow, deep breathing increases oxygen in the blood, allowing cells to produce energy more efficiently? Yup. I bet you didn’t know that the active exhalation used in breathing practices help alkalize the pH level of the blood, too.
I enjoyed Sivasana and Yoga Nidra, which is deep relaxation. This type of yoga helps the body repair and restore, as the body enters a hypometabolic state, which allows energy resources to focus on restorative activities, such as repairing tissue and improving cognitive function.
Yoga not only is an excellent tool in relieving stress, but is also provides an opportunity for you to deepen your understanding of your body while offering numerous physical and emotional benefits. Through yoga practices, you may come to understand the value of movement, breath, mediation, and deep relaxation.