It’s National Yoga Month, a great time to explore the benefits of yoga at any level of experience. We at Cook For Your Life understand that for those going through cancer treatment the thought of practicing yoga may seem daunting. Images in your mind may pop up of yogi masters confidently standing on their mats with an athleticism that seems impossible to match before, during or even after treatment. But the key is to acknowledge that yoga practice is not about being the most fit, flexible, athletic, or strong. Gentle yoga practice can be especially beneficial (and possible) for cancer patients. Studies show that the more active you are during chemo the less tired you tend to feel. Easy for researchers to say, after all, cancer treatment isn’t taking a toll on their energy and stamina, but finding ways to keep moving will improve a patient’s mood and lift their energy.
Cancer treatment can cause pain and stress. Non-strenuous yoga practices such as seated yoga, guided breathing, meditation, and gentle movements of the body can actually help with pain management and reduce stress and fatigue, both of which act as depressors, stifling our bodies’ immune functions and recovery. Gentle yoga can also help to reduce muscle tension and improve circulation. Many patients suffer joint pain, neuropathy and lymphedema so it’s important to work with an instructor who understands these limitations, and who can identify ways to use yoga practice to moderately stimulate the muscles and blood flow, enhancing lymphatic flow and reducing the swelling that can occur during treatment. For cancer patients who want to get their bodies back into shape, yoga therapy is a perfect form of light exercise. Even the gentlest of body movements in yoga can release endorphins which help restore that sense of well-being which is familiar to many who exercise or have exercised regularly, which in turn improves mood by fighting any anxiety or stress you may be feeling.
The point is, give yoga a try. If a few gentle deep breaths is all you can manage for now, that’s okay. Practicing yoga is a journey that takes time. As with enjoying your food, it’s best to savor it.
Get started by visiting these sites:
- Yoga 4 cancer classes – free classes in NYC
- Gilda’s Club – offers exercise classes including yoga for cancer patients
- Moffitt Cancer Center – gentle yoga for cancer videos
Written by Miriam Ambrosino