Friday, 8 June 2012

Yoga and Cancer

I'm delighted to offer this guest blog on how yoga can help with cancer sufferers...

While healthy individuals may practice yoga for fitness, mental clarity or emotional well-being, cancer patients may turn to gentle yoga classes as a form of therapy.

Aggressive cancers such as mesothelioma can cause symptoms that become debilitating if they are not properly managed. Yoga provides a simple, natural way to relieve both physical and mental symptoms. Mesothelioma patients may also use yoga to relieve side effects of other cancer treatments.

These benefits can be noted after just one yoga class, although patients may benefit the most from recurring sessions. Yoga studios, health clubs and senior centers often offer several gentle yoga classes each week that patients can participate in when their energy levels are high. 

Physical Benefits of Yoga for Cancer Patients
Patients can use yoga as a palliative therapy for several different cancer-related conditions.

For asbestos cancer patients, yoga can help reduce chest pain, promote easier breathing and relieve fatigue. Some of the most beneficial yoga poses for patients with these conditions include:
  • Cobra and/or upward dog (to open the chest and improve breathing)
  • Child’s pose (lessens fatigue and alleviates head, neck and chest pain
  • Extended side angle (stretches the whole body, including the chest and shoulders)
  • Warrior II (increases lung capacity)

Certain side effects of other cancer treatments can also be relieved through yoga.

Bridge pose and lotus pose can improve digestion that has been disrupted by chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Chemotherapy-induced nausea may be reduced by reclining hero pose. Many patients also find that a general yoga practice can help fight fatigue or stimulate their appetite when sleep and hunger patterns are disrupted by treatment.

Mental Benefits of Yoga for Cancer Patients
Yoga is also an excellent outlet for cancer-related stress and anxiety. Poses such as forward bend and cat-cow stretches can help induce relaxation. Savasana (the final pose in any yoga class) is also excellent for clearing the mind and releasing tension. A brief period of meditation before or after a yoga class can provide patients with even more opportunities to relax and diffuse stress.  

Even off the mat, cancer patients can use yogic practices to relieve anxiety. Yogic breathing (known as pranayama) can be used in a hospital, cancer center or any other location where patients begin to feel nervous. Slowing the breathing and becoming more attentive to the inhalation and exhalation process can help yoga practitioners feel calmer and more centered any time that anxiety strikes.

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.

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