Many health centers and community organizations offer yoga for cancer patients. This 5,000-year-old practice based on Indian philosophy has become popular in the US in recent years. But does the combination of meditation, postures, and rhythmic breathing that yoga is known for really help with cancer treatment and recovery? Here are important facts you need to know and how to get started.
What is yoga?
It is an ancient form of exercise for the mind and body. Yoga aims to improve breathing, flexibility, and strength through a series of movements and postures. The term is derived from the Sanskrit word “Yuj” which means to unite. Its philosophy revolves around the harmony of the mind, body, and spirit. Many believe it can help fight off illnesses.
There are about 80 main postures that you can do sitting, standing, lying down, or kneeling. Choose from various styles, including Ashtanga, Iyengar, and Hatha. Some of them are gentle, with the breathwork and meditation as the focus, while other forms are more strenuous.
Yoga postures are believed to provide these health benefits:
- make your joints and muscles more flexible
- stimulate your nervous system
- calm your body and mind
Yoga For Cancer Patients and Survivors
Cancer patients often deal with pain, fatigue, insomnia, and other side effects of their disease and medication. As with any complementary therapy they take, yoga helps alleviate their symptoms and lift their mood.
Instructors and cancer clinics promote this practice as a natural way to help a person relax and cope with anxiety, depression, and stress. Generally, it is said to contribute to physical and mental well-being, improving one’s quality of life. Yoga may also help you to move your body around more quickly and easily after surgery for cancer.
What’s In A Yoga Session
A session typically lasts between 60 and 90 minutes. You can see a private instructor or attend group classes. The type of exercises you will do depends on the form of yoga you choose. Hatha yoga is the most popular. It teaches slow, gentle movements that are more manageable for people that suffer from fatigue and shortness of breath. The class usually ends with some relaxation time.
Wear clothing that’s easy to stretch and move around in. You may have to bring your own non-slip mat, or your teacher might provide this for you. After learning the safe and proper way of doing the postures, it is recommended to continue practicing them at home. However, make sure that you are doing them correctly or you may risk injury.
Yoga is generally safe to practice, but make sure you are under a qualified teacher. Yoga masters often recommend the following safety measures:
- Inform your instructor about any medical problems you have, including joint and back problems, before you begin.
- Allow at least two hours after a meal before doing yoga.
- Stop and tell the instructor if the posture is too painful for you.
- Drink plenty of water after every session.
Yoga is a way of creating an internal environment that promotes vitality and health. If you want to include it in your therapy, be sure to consult with your healthcare team first. They may also be able to recommend the right classes for you.