Yoga and Cancer – How Yoga Can Help You Cope With Your Diagnosis

Let’s cut to the chase here. Yogis are different from other healthy folks.
We “exercise” not just for the benefit of “toning up,” but rather “tuning in” to ourselves and making sense of who we are in this vast universe.
It is for these reasons that yoga can help combat the enemy of all humans: CANCER.

The Benefits of Yoga

The benefits of practicing yoga seem to grow more with every article we read, magazine we ingest, and program we watch.
A regular yoga practice increases our body’s flexibility, lengthening our muscles and connective tissues in support of our bones and joints. The physical practice of yoga keeps us connected to our bodies on multiple levels.
The next level of flexibility comes when we learn to let go of rigidity and allow the mind/body connection to grow stronger. There is always something over the horizon with yoga.
Your yoga practice could be the key to finding a daily and sustainable feeling of peace and wellbeing.

Yoga and Cancer: How Yoga Can Help

Do you know what evokes anything but peace and feelings of wellbeing? Cancer.

Yoga Grounds Us

However, what we have learned through science and study is that having a yoga practice may unlock the body’s potential to keeping us grounded and centered during our fight against cancer and other diseases.

Yoga Clears the Mind

Yoga may help us fight diseases like cancer by providing much-needed support for the body’s systems and functions. In this way, yoga helps us clear the mind so that we may nourish and strengthen the spirit.

Yoga Links Us Together

A relationship with the breath and body working in tandem with the mind/spirit connection could be the key to finding peace and the feeling of wellbeing even while the body is under attack from disease – specifically cancer.

The Role of “Flexibility” in Yoga and Cancer

The role “flexibility” plays is not a traditional one when it comes to fighting cancer.

Yoga Creates Range of Motion

Here is what scientists are discovering about yoga and cancer: we swap the goals of lengthening muscles and working toward pivotal poses like Crow or Handstand for maintaining and/or recovering range of motion, supporting brain function, and fighting the fear and isolation cancer patients can feel when battling for their lives.
Cancer patients lose range of motion for a variety of reasons: surgical interventions, exposure to chemotherapy and radiation as part of their treatment plan, port location for chemotherapy, tissue growth disruptions, and more.
Gentle yoga movements and specifically adaptive yoga brings much-needed movement and circulation to these areas.

Yoga Links Neural and Muscular Pathways

Linking movement, muscle memory, and breath, the brain can start to develop new pathways or strengthen existing ones to support the skeleton and aid in balance.
Cancer survivors may also build new neural and muscular pathways in adjusting to any prosthetics they may need.
Struggling with painful side effects from your cancer or treatment? Practice Yoga to Manage Physical Pain During Cancer Treatment (Video Series)


The Role of Body/Breath Connection in Yoga and Cancer

Yoga may also provide support to patients by using the body/breath relationship when targeting “chemo brain.” This is a common term used by cancer survivors to describe thinking and memory problems that can occur after cancer treatment.

Yoga Creates a Flexible Mind

We know from regular yoga practice that flexibility of the body equates to flexibility of the mind. Yoga can be a helping hand when battling chemo brain and other cognitive issues associated with cancer.

Yoga Draws Our Attention to the Breath

A relationship with the breath is very important for both yoga and cancer patients. Sometimes, this is the only movement we can make in a yoga class if we are fighting disease.
Deeper breaths in yoga practice help stimulate the body to release lingering cellular waste that can cause and feed disease. These deeper breaths allow fresh cells to flood the body and eliminate waste more effectively.
With clear breathing, we find a clear mind by allowing the release of the correct neurotransmitters to stabilize the body’s autonomic functions like mood, digestion, circulation, and strengthening immune functions.
Clearing out waste makes room for more enriching life moments.

The Role of Community in Yoga and Cancer

Yoga provides an additional support system for cancer patients. This works two-fold.

Yoga Creates Community

First, an adaptive yoga class for cancer patients helps people gain access to a community of like-minded individuals able to support each other every step of the way. It is very important that cancer patients be surrounded by love and light as they battle for their lives.

Yoga Motivates Us to Show Up

Second, it is equally as important that cancer survivors have a place to support each other in their struggles and recovery. Yoga classes provide all of this and can be a driving life force that motivates a survivor to attend classes even if they feel terrible that day.
Creating a personal support system through adaptive yoga classes helps fight cancer by providing a place to build strong muscles, bones, and the mind/body connection for mental clarity and longevity.

Yoga and Cancer: The Takeaway

Fighting cancer is often an uphill battle and it can be equally as hard to watch someone you love take on this terrifying disease.
However, yoga can play a vital role to help cancer patients and their loved ones cope with and manage the disease.
If you or someone you know is a cancer survivor who has benefited from yoga, please share your story in the comments below.
In need of some yoga classes to cope with your cancer diagnosis? Try these Yoga Poses & Meditation for Cancer-Related Depression (Video Series)

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Melissa Nordin

Melissa is a yoga teacher and Clinical Exercise Physiologist who blends the wisdom of yoga practice with the science of corrective exercise and nutrition. Melissa believes mindfulness is the key to happiness and brings that philosophy into her yoga classes, workshops, and writing.


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