Home / Yoga for health / COMBATTING CANCER WITH YOGA THERAPY, By Ellen Patrick – Yoga Therapist



YOGA THERAPY can be a life raft when a diagnosis of cancer generates a terrifying tidal wave of life-altering treatment and recovery. It is easy to see how a person may drown in a sea of fears, treatments and disability. Without proper support, one may feel victimized by the disease, the medical system, or even worse, their own bodies.
YOGA THERAPY can supply the tools necessary to fortify defenses and rally the troops, thereby empowering one with a sense of strength, confidence and control. And when it comes to battling cancer, these weapons are just as essential as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.
YOGA THERAPY’s artillery includes poses, meditation, breathing techniques, mantra and ritual. Depending on the specific needs of the individual, a protocol is designed to help navigate the, often treacherous, seas of cancer recovery and remission.
YOGA POSES can keep an individual strong enough to battle cancer, while its treatment threatens to weaken. Movement does not have to be vigorous to be effective. But, by keeping the body moving, the lymph system is supported in its job of attack and detoxification while preventing common cancer side-effects, such as lymphedema. Additionally, increased blood flow nourishes and cleanses the body, while the body resists toxins and atrophy.
A recent student of mine was having a bad day of side effects when I arrived for our private session. Instead of cancelling the appointment, we did simple movements of the head, arms, legs and torso while sitting in a chair. I also incorporated breathing techniques. Afterwards, he felt better, had more energy and was inspired to maintain a daily practice on his own.
BREATHING TECHNIQUES are the easiest and possibly the most effective method for supporting the efforts to fight cancer. Simple counting strategies that increase or decrease the inhale and exhale can reduce stress, increase energy, ease pain, and manage sleep disruption. Additionally, the movement of the diaphragm (the primary muscle of respiration) massages and stimulates the lymphatic duct, which is the processing plant for toxins collected by the lymph system.
MEDITATION is another very important weapon in handling stress management during the battle against cancer. By training the mind and enhancing its ability to focus and concentrate, it is a key strategy in coping with chemo treatments and some of it’s debilitating side-effects such as “chemo brain.”
To ease anxiety before her chemo treatments, I suggested to a student she meditate prior to her appointments. She is now more relaxed in anticipation of her treatments, and will even meditate during infusions to remain calm.
MANTRA can be likened to the art of positive affirmations. By repeating positive phrases and thoughts, individuals can create psychological and physiological responses that support the healing process. For example, the repetition of a phrase such as, “Today I will nourish and support my body,” encourages daily choices that bolster immunity, inspiration and hope.
RITUAL can be incorporated to enhance the effect of MANTRA. For example, an uplifting ritual to start each day would be to light a candle and repeat an affirmation committing oneself to participating in activities that support health and well-being. This ritual will serve as a daily reminder that you are deeply committed to being a pro-active participant in your recovery and remission.
While teaching at Mt. Sinai’s Dubin Breast Center in NYC, one of my students would begin her yoga practice by placing healing crystals around her yoga mat to help promote positive thoughts and healing energy while practicing yoga.
Whether fighting cancer or attempting to prevent a recurrence, the tools of YOGA THERAPY are available to support your journey and enhance the medical treatments prescribed by your health-care team. By being pro-active, a sense of strength, control and confidence is restored and a more positive attitude can be cultivated through your recovery and beyond.

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