As a practicing yogini at the time of a cancer diagnosis I have written quite a bit about my experiences healing through yoga. For me it became more than an opportunity to develop strength, it was an opportunity to find control in chaos and peace in the midst of a terribly challenging period in my life. Now, I find joy in teaching others a way to experience that same connection with their body and mind.
Recently The Mesothelioma Center asked me to spread their wisdom on the more updated information on the benefits of yoga for cancer patients. Here is the guest post:
For thousands of years, people have practiced yoga to improve their physical and mental health. While healthy individuals often use yoga to boost their strength, flexibility and balance, mesothelioma patients can turn their practice into a form of treatment.
As unorthodox as it sounds, yoga is actually regarded as an alternative cancer therapy. A regular yoga practice can relieve both the physical symptoms and the emotional stress that mesothelioma patients experience.
Physical Benefits of Yoga for Cancer Patients
Hatha yoga classes provide the most physical benefits for mesothelioma patients. These classes offer some exercise but do not require a large amount of physical exertion. Poses done in Hatha yoga classes are less rigorous than poses done in more advanced styles of yoga, and the patient is free to settle into the pose for several minutes and reap the full physical benefits.
Yoga helps maintain strength and muscle tone at a time when cancer patients could easily lose their muscle mass. It can also help stimulate the appetite and improve a patient’s quality of sleep.
Yoga poses are designed to stimulate internal organs and open certain pathways. Certain poses can help open the chest and make it easier for mesothelioma patients to breathe. These poses include:
· Cobra pose
· Low lunge
· Upward-facing dog
· Extended side angle
Despite common thought, yogi practitioners do not need to get their feet behind their head to reap enjoy physical benefits. An Indian study revealed that even yogic relaxation exercises can improve appetite, sleep, bowel habits and feelings of peace and tranquility.
Mental Benefits of Yoga for Cancer Patients
Anxiety, depression and fear are common emotional symptoms of mesothelioma that a yoga practice can serve as an outlet for. Dhyana – the meditation-focused discipline of yoga – contributes to most of these benefits.
Carving out a space on the yoga mat to practice this meditation allows patients to clear their minds of their worries about their health. Even spending a short period of time meditating can provide these benefits - in one study, as little as 30 minutes of yoga was found to increase mental and physical alternates and relaxation.
Source: Bower, J, et al. "Yoga for Cancer Patients and Survivors." Cancer Control . 12.3 (2005) <http://oshit.info/pdf/Yoga/3.pdf>.
Author bio: Faith Franz is a writer for the Mesothelioma Center. She combines her interests in whole-body health and medical research to educate the mesothelioma community about the newest developments in cancer care.