The Benefits of Yoga for Cancer Patients - The 5 Toolkits.
Between 2015 - 2017, there were more than 300,000 people diagnosed with cancer in the UK alone. (Cancer Research UK, 2021). They will undergo painful treatment regimens, stress, excruciating side effects of the medications and emotional trauma.
Whilst maintaining a busy schedule of treatment and the requirements of their own lives is vital, it is also incredibly important to implement self-care and relaxation. Yoga has the ability to reduce the psychological stress caused by one’s diagnosis as well as helping manage the physical symptoms and side effects of treatment.
There has been proven therapeutic benefits of Yoga for cancer including reducing anxiety and stress, lessening fatigue which helps improve sleep, improving quality of life; as well as helping heal the body, mind, and spirit in the midst of the cancer battle.
The Journal of Clinical Oncology (2014) studied the impact of yoga when practiced by patients twice a week for 12 weeks. The study found that there was decreased inflammation, mood and fatigue in breast cancer survivors as well as more vitality.
Here are the 5 Toolkits:
Breathwork can help to cleanse the lungs. When you exhale completely it helps the Co2 / stale air to get out from the bottom of your lungs as Co2 is heavier and hangs out in the bottom of the lungs. By focusing on exhaling from the bottom up can help to cleanse the lungs. Yoga has the toolkit to help with this breathing technique, as breath work is a core aspect of yoga.
Often patients have menopausal symptoms like hot flushes. Yogic cooling breathing technique can help patients cool down. Yoga for cancer breathing technique is designed to help anyone who experiences hot flushes, foggy brain, fatigue, and insomnia.
Tip 1: For a deeper more cleansing breath, it may help to focus more on breathing from the belly.
Tip 2: It may be more comfortable to use a bolster.
Movement can be very difficult for patients with cancer. As part of cancer treatment, there is a risk of lymphoedema - the build up of lymphatic fluid in the tissues of the limbs, neck and abdomen. This can be debilitating, painful and increase risk of infection in affected areas. The lymphatic system relies on muscular contraction, flexion and compression, respiration, arterial pulse pressure and the natural pull of gravity to maintain tissue fluid balance and promote lymphatic drainage.
Dynamic yoga movement postures and breathing techniques can help fight oxidative stress which poses a risk to the healthy cells. Yoga reduces stress systemically in the body, which in turn, cuts down inflammation and degeneration. Yoga for cancer is aimed at increasing strength, flexibility as well as improving balance and mobility.
Tip 1: If you are experiencing troubles with laying on your tummy or sides because of surgery or radiation, move on your mat with postures that bring circulation and lubrication to those areas to help balance the nervous system.
Using gravity to help with movement rather than using movement to push through gravity, can be part of the strengthening routine for building up the bones, muscles and strengthening the internal organs.
For example, sitting on the floor can be hard work and difficult for knees. So take baby steps as recovering from chemo sessions takes a lot of energy out of the body. Focus more on gently strengthening rather than increasing heart rate and begin with supine (laying on the back) or sitting on a chair. This helps to relax comfortably whilst breathing and moving lengthens the thoracic spine, as the diaphragm works with gravity massaging the thoracic duct when we breathe fully. This allows more passage room for the oxygen to get in.
4. Squeeze and Soak
Radiotherapy and Hormone Therapy treatments can cause many side effects such as diarrhoea, constipation, fatigue, digestive system problems, menopausal symptoms, loss of appetite, weight gain, memory problems, mood swings, depression, lymphoedema blood clots, and other symptoms.
“Squeeze and Soak” termed by B. K. S. Lyengar - is a cleanse effect, suggesting that a twist effect action can help to ease the pain and alleviate the symptoms above. For example, in supine position, (supta in Sanskrit), where poses are done lying on your back is an ideal position to work on the “Squeeze and Soak'' action.
Tip 1: Take a windscreen wiper action with the legs, letting gravity do its work. This can relieve the symptoms by breakdown / “squeeze” / ringing out all the nutrients from the food in the stomach, and rising out all the nutrients out into the rest of the body, where the body can ‘soak” it up. Therefore giving more energy into the patient’s body to help them to fight the disease and to go about their own livelihood.
5. Mindfulness for mental strength
The Psychology of Human Touch plays an important role in developing our sense of self, how we connect with others, and our overall happiness and well-being. Human touch is a necessary component to anyone's happiness, mental health, and wellbeing.
For example, when adding the “human touch” action in the supine twist, where the arms are opened wide and one arm can reach over and gently brush or stroke with the hand and fingertips, this soothes the person enabling them to regulate their breathing which calms their parasympathetic state: the rest and digest state. The brain is telling them that they are in a safe place at that moment in time. So a huge aim of the yoga for cancer class is empowering students with tools to help with their anxiety and fears. They might not be able to control what is happening but they can control their response.
Bringing yoga nidra meditation into class can help with the psychological and emotional impact of having cancer. Empowering students with an intention is a peaceful way to let them listen and bring awareness to their body.
One CancerCare client who practices in a biweekly yoga program said: “I enjoy coming to the mat because I am able to focus solely on myself and my body,” the client said. “I tune out work, doctor appointments, and cancer.”
To sum up, yoga for cancer class offers you empowering tools to help with anxiety and fears. Breathing and mindfulness is learned by students to help manage stress and anxiety while on your mat and to take away to help you cope with your day-to-day lives.
WEDOYOGA offers a free yoga class for cancer patients, carers are allowed too. We have created a yoga for cancer class, a sense of community and a safe environment where you can feel comfortable to take off your wig (if you have one) and feel supported on your mat. Modifications are given to cope with your cording or peripheral neuropathy.
We would love to see you there and support you on your journey. To learn more about our Free Yoga for Cancer please visit - https://www.wedoyoga.co.uk/pages/yoga-for-cancer
Yoga Teacher: Su Chanprasong, 200RYT, Yoga for Cancer CPD