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Exercise & CancerStress ManagementSurvivorship

Yoga and Cancer: The Healing Power of Yoga

Yoga supports the mind, body, and spirit of patients with cancer and their caregivers during and beyond treatment. The practice of yoga cultivates physical, psychological, and spiritual aspects to enhance recovery and well-being.
February 2015 Vol 1 No 1
Pat Krueger, RPH, RYT200

What is Yoga?

Yoga is a method of stretching and positional exercises that involves controlled breathing, specific body positions, and meditation to promote good health, fitness, and self-control of the mind.

Yoga detoxifies the body. Whether these toxins are from chemotherapy or other types of treatment, environmental or lifestyle-related toxins, yoga stimulates the immune system through the use of breathing movement. There is a powerful union of breath and movement. Breathing with each yoga posture will maximize the effect on the muscles. Therefore, opening, lifting, and extending movements are typically with inhalation, whereas bending, compressing, and twisting movements are typically done with exhalation. Breathing guides and surrounds movement, like a blanket that wraps your body on a chilly winter night. If you focus on each breath mindfully, this will guide the movement and strengthen the body and soul with natural resistance.

Improved range of motion. Many cancerrelated surgical procedures leave lifelong scar tissue and limit the body’s range of motion. Yoga is well-known to be a gentle and safe way to enhance the range of motion and flexibility.

Promoting relaxation. A cancer diagnosis causes stress. Yoga promotes relaxation and uses relaxation responses to shift the body and mind into deep relaxation, thereby reducing anxiety and improving sleep.

Bone strength. Chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy can cause bone loss. Yoga can build strength and bone density, and can combat bone pain associated with bone metastases. Exercise using resistance and weights has been shown to slow the rate of bone loss, but patients with cancer and bone metastases need to be careful about the amount of stress they put on their bones. Because tumor metastases can cause bones to become brittle and prone to breakage, patients with cancer need to be cautious in selecting low-impact exercises that are safe for them.

Activities such as daily yoga can accentuate flexibility, breathing, and relaxation. It can stimulate bone growth, alleviate pain, and provide an overall feeling of well-being. Bone pain does not have to stop you from being active, and taking a yoga class is a great and healthy way to spend time with friends and family.

Anchor of calm. Yoga provides an internal anchor of calm for cancer survivors, for those undergoing treatment, and for caregivers. Many people practicing yoga therapy have discovered the subtle benefit of an increased awareness of an internal stillness, a sense of unity, and a sense of true health and vitality that spills over into many other aspects of life.

Patient Resources

The following websites offer additional information on yoga and its unique benefits for people coping with cancer:

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Last modified: October 12, 2020

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