While cancer can be a challenging journey, finding motives for optimism are everywhere. Have you ever considered yoga? Believe it or not, the practice of yoga can help to ignite a hidden joy inside of you and give you more reason to smile! Active meditation, and learning how to listen to the body on a deeper level, can provide a welcomed peace of mind. If you choose, Yoga can give you the clarity you need to help you to wake up each morning and endure.
Yoga and Cancer
When dealing with cancer, science supports the benefits of practicing consistent yoga. According to a 2017 review of 23 randomized controlled trials, when done on a consistent basis, yoga has been shown to improve energy levels, quality of life, and quality of sleep and reduce occurrences of depression and anxiety [i]. Practicing yoga is very safe when done properly under the guidance of a qualified instructor. Its advantageous for all ages, including older individuals.
Since individuals are now living longer beyond cancer, the benefits of yoga can have more everlasting benefits. Yoga is becoming more popular among the older population. There are currently large numbers of individuals 65 years and older who may also benefit from yoga. Elderly cancer patients who have undergone chemotherapy and radiotherapy, , have been shown to have decreased levels of cancer related physical and mental fatigue (p<0.01). In addition, that same cohort has shown reduced global side effect burden leading to improved independence and quality of life. These beneficial outcomes are the result of practicing yoga for just 2 days per week, each session being 75 minutes in length. The science is continuing to show promising results [ii].
Yoga is good for you
The gentle movements inspired through yoga helps to maintain a sound mind, and in doing so, alleviate the common daily stressors. High stress levels can lead to digestive problems such as constipation and diarrhea as well as poor quality and quantity of sleep. Unlike traditional pharmaceutical interventions, the medicinal movements that yoga inspires help to stretch out the muscles and provide a way to keep the joints limber. And unlike the more traditional exercise routines, such as your basic cardiovascular and resistance moves (which also have a wonderful impact on health) yoga acts as an ‘in-between’ allowing for easy stretch routines, with the possibility to turn it into an intense aerobically and muscularly taxing form of dance type exercise. All with the benefit of being performed within your own comfortable setting.
Physiologically, yoga has been shown to decrease blood pressure, regulate blood sugar levels, and ease back pain [iii] [iv]. Active meditation in the form of yoga, is also great for relieving headaches. Practicing yoga consistently may be the physical, mental and emotional relief that is imperative for maintaining the best health you can, as you journey through treatment and beyond.
These days, practicing yoga could not get any simpler. Here are some strategies to get started at home:
- YOUTUBE it. Check out instructional videos or book, and start slow in your own home.
- Join a local yoga studio, or classes at the YMCA to get going.
- Do what you can. If the positions are a bit too hard, modify them for you.
- Use yoga to stretch before exercise, or meditate at the end of a long day.
Yoga has been shown to be advantageous for health during cancer. From reducing fatigue to improving quality of life during the hardest days, yoga can become an effective treatment tool for you. It continues to show benefits.
Practicing yoga means joining a worldwide community. This community is full of love, and hope. You will feel different and you won’t regret it. If you aren’t smiling already, you will be soon!