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Yoga for Patients With Cancer

by Virgil Anderson

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Yoga is an ancient practice that combines movement, specific poses, controlled breathing, relaxation and meditation. It is also a philosophy and a way of life. You don’t have to be completely devoted to yoga to take advantage of its benefits. Practiced weekly or even daily, it can relieve pain, help maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress, and much more.

For mesothelioma patients, a rare form of asbestos-related cancer that affects the lungs and abdomen, there are many benefits of practicing yoga regularly. It can reduce the side-effects of the treatment and help patients relax, take their minds off cancer and learn to deal with terminal illness. Practicing yoga as a cancer patient might require making some modifications, but with the guidance of a trained and experienced instructor, anyone can see positive results.


What is yoga?


Yoga started in Northern India around 5,000 years ago, although researchers believe it could be older. In its original form, yoga included physical, mental and spiritual exercises that focused on discipline, control over body and mind, attention and a better understanding of life in general. There are many philosophies and different styles of yoga, and what most Americans practice is Hatha Yoga.

Hatha Yoga is focused on finding a balance between the body, mind and spirit through asanas, pranayama (control of breath) and dhyana (meditation). Basic classes are Hatha Yoga, but there are other variations like Bikram Yoga which is done in a hot room, or Iyengar Yoga, which focuses on posture and uses accessories to help get into a pose and maintain it.


Yoga’s Health Benefits​


Many people practice yoga or take yoga classes because it feels good. It is not an intense strength or cardiovascular workout, but it does strengthen the muscles and improve flexibility and balance. Yoga reduces stress and other health risk factors, such as high blood pressure. It also helps with depression and anxiety and can relieve pain and cure insomnia.

Studies show that people suffering from lower back pain were able to reduce stiffness and improve their mobility through yoga. Yoga can reduce symptoms of depression, help maintain healthy eating habits and optimum weight, improve cardiovascular fitness and reduces blood sugar levels and blood pressure.


Yoga and Benefits for Cancer Patients

People living with mesothelioma may think that any type of exercise is too difficult. But yoga poses can be changed and all cancer patients can get significant benefits from it. Here are some of the benefits of yoga for cancer patients according to studies:

  • Relief from pain and fatigue. Mesothelioma patients often experience pain, sometimes from the tumor pushing on the lungs or abdominal organs, and also from the side-effects of specific treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. Studies have found that practicing yoga while on treatment helped reduce pain and fatigue.
  • Reduces depression and anxiety. Living with terminal cancer, painful treatments, surgery, unpleasant changes in appearance and physical abilities can cause anyone to experience depression and anxiety. The good news is that research shows that yoga has a strong positive effect on mood and can significantly relieve depression and anxiety, as well as stress.
  • Sleep better. Pain, nausea or depression can affect the quality of sleep of cancer patients. Studies found that rigorous training, an important part of all yoga practices, can significantly reduce stress and improve the mood and duration and quality of sleep.
  • Breathe easier. Difficulty breathing and shortness of breath are common side-effects of cancer. Exercise helps, but most patients cannot or are afraid to exercise. Yoga has been proven to be a gentle way to help patients with cancer or survivors of cancer breathe easier.
  • Improve overall quality of life. All of these factors come together to demonstrate that yoga can help improve the quality of life for a patient living with cancer.

Yoga can also be an enjoyable social activity for cancer patients. They may feel isolated and alone, but joining classes with other people with similar medical needs is a good way to socialize with others who understand what it is like to be sick and suffering.


Working with an Experienced Instructor


When practicing yoga, it is important to learn from a trained and licensed instructor. For cancer patients, it is especially important to work with someone who understands their limitations and needs. If you or someone close is interested in trying yoga as therapy during cancer treatment, ask for recommendations from your doctor. Some health care centers may offer classes or have trained staff members who can teach yoga to patients. It is important to never attempt any kind of exercise or new treatment without consulting with your medical team. It is also important to remember that as a cancer patient you have limitations and you may not be able to achieve all poses. You can try modified poses, stretching, focusing on breathing, learning to be mindful and to control stress and other negative feelings.


If you would like to try yoga as therapy for cancer treatments and experience its many benefits, go to BookYogaRetreats.com and choose one of our health yoga retreats.

Article originally published on Mesothelioma.net

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