Through mindful movement, asana (poses), breathing, focus and meditation, yoga can improve physical and mental well-being. Anyone and every BODY can benefit from yoga, including those with cancer. There was a time when patients with cancer, like mesothelioma or colon cancer, would be told to rest only. Now, we know that some physical activity is beneficial, even if it is light and modified for the physical limitations of the individual. Yoga provides numerous benefits for cancer patients.
How Yoga Helps Patients with Cancer
Therapeutic yoga can provide a number of benefits for people living with the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of treatments and medications used to fight it. Yoga cannot provide a cure for cancer and should be used in conjunction with traditional treatment. When it is used along with medical care, yoga can help patients feel better, cope better with being sick, and enjoy life more:
- Yoga relieves stress and boosts mood. Cancer patients live with symptoms that are more than just physical. The stress of living under the looming diagnosis of cancer can be great, but yoga can help. Researchers found that people practicing yoga regularly experienced a reduction in overall stress. This was accompanied by a reduction in the stress hormone cortisol. Participants also report having a better overall mood with less depression and less anxiety.
- Practicing yoga reduces pain. Trained yoga instructors and experts can instruct a patient to use poses and breathing exercises to minimize specific types of pain. Research has also found that practicing yoga generally helps to increase a person’s tolerance to pain. For a patient with cancer, pain becomes a way of life, but yoga can help build up a better tolerance to it and reduce the need to take prescription painkillers.
- Yoga provides energy and limits fatigue. With cancer, fatigue is a common side effect. It may be caused by the cancer itself, but most often the fatigue comes from chemotherapy and other treatments. To help battle that fatigue, patients can try practicing yoga. It has been proven to reduce fatigue, specifically in cancer patients as compared to those patients who do not use yoga.
- Yoga improves quality of life. The quality of life for a patient living with cancer tends to deteriorate with the physical discomfort, the limitation in activities and social life, and the emotional distress caused by a cancer diagnosis. Yoga gives a patient focus, goals to achieve, greater physical comfort, the ability to connect with others in a social setting, more energy, and so many other benefits that make life better, in spite of having cancer.
Appropriate Types of Yoga for Cancer Patients
Not all styles of yoga are appropriate for cancer patients. If you are being treated for cancer you probably have physical limitations that prevent you from getting vigorous exercise. Yoga can be modified and guided in a way that is restorative and therapeutic. Speak to your medical team before trying yoga and you may even find that your medical center hosts specialized classes for patients. With the right instruction you can reap all these great benefits of the ancient practice of yoga.
Denver Resources for Therapeutic Yoga and Yoga for Cancer Patients
Alexi Neal, Owner, The Neal Center Counseling and Yoga Therapy
The Neal Center Counseling and Yoga Therapy is owned by Alexi Neal. While The Neal Center is not specific to cancer patients, they specialize in helping people process grief and trauma through embodied, mindful, spiritual therapies. The Neal Center offers Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapy, Enlightened Counseling & Reiki. There are 4 ways to connect:
- You can join The Neal Center online community of survivors to find resources, encouragement and connection.
- You can join The Neal Center trauma-informed yoga classes, and start exploring the ways that your body can guide and support you in the healing process.
- You can schedule a call to talk in more depth about what is showing up for you right now, and connect with resources to take the next step in your journey.
- You can schedule an intro session in counseling or yoga therapy, and experience what The Neal Center has to offer you in person.
Kristen Boyle, Yoga Instructor, Pheonix Rising Yoga Therapy
Kristen is a certified Phoenix Rising Yoga Therapist and teaches with the methodology of “Befriending the Body”, “Awareness”, and, then, “Acceptance of What Is”.
“In the popular culture (if you can call cancer a part of that, though so many are affected by it in one way or another) the common call is soon as you are diagnosed with cancer is, “fight cancer” or worse, “f*ck cancer,” both of which create a battlefield within the body. Not to mention the impact of chemotherapy and other types of treatments, that are even worse than the cancer itself.
In my work, by first Befriending the Body, we remove the concept of the body as a battlefield, and then by developing an Awareness of what is, and then practicing and Acceptance, we create a new climate, one that seeks healing through embracing, rather than rejecting, the body as it is in this moment. And isn’t that all your body want anyway? For you to be a friend to it? To love and embrace it as it is?
This modality of healing is not for everyone, but sometimes Radical Acceptance is where our power is found. And I can help you get there.” – Kristen Boyle
Kristen works one-on-one, with couples, and with groups. She will be offering a Transformation in 8 Themes workshop, focused for people affected by cancer this summer, dates to be determined. The best way to sign up or to ask questions is to email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Call or text 303-921-2152. Kristen’s website is www.kristenboyleyoga.com. Connect on Facebook: The Yoga Coach or on Instagram: KristenBoyleYogaCoach.
Angela Marquez, Co-Chair, Colorado Chapter of LE&RN
Angela Marquez is a patient advocate and cancer survivor who developed Lymphedema nine years after her cancer treatment. I’m grateful to have her as an inspiring, strong, and hilarious friend, and, workout buddy! Angela volunteers as a Co-Chair for the Colorado Chapter of LE&RN, and helps organize their annual Run/Walk to Fight Lymphedema & Lymphatic Disease. She knows the importance of exercise for those who suffer from Lymphedema and Lymphatic diseases. Follow her on Instagram: @funky_lymphedema
“It is essential for those who suffer from this incurable disease (Lymphedema) to exercise to help move their lymph.” – Angel Marquez, Co-Chair Colorado Chapter of LE&RN
What is Lymphedema (LE)?
Lymphedema is a lifelong, chronic, and incurable disease. Lymphedema most commonly involves swelling in arms or legs and can affect the head, neck, trunk, and genital area. It occurs after cancer treatments, non-cancer related surgery or trauma to the lymph nodes (secondary LE), while some people are born with it or develop it later in life (primary LE). *
5K Run/Walk For Lymphedema
Sunday, June 2, FitLo will join in the run/walk at Sloan Lake with Angela and the Colorado Chapter of LE&RN to raise funds and awareness for Lymphedema. Register/Donate here to join us in supporting research, education and advocacy.
What percentage of cancer survivors get Lymphedema (LE)? While survival rates among patients with cancers have steadily improved, it comes with the risk of a secondary disease— lymphedema. Up to 10 million Americans are estimated to have lymphedema— seven million of which are a result of cancer treatment. This includes the following percent estimates: breast (30%); sarcoma (30%); gynecological (20%); melanoma (16%); genital urinary (10%); head and neck (4%)..*
Upcoming FitLo Passport Events
SAVE THE DATE: ProjectMove | Sun, July 21, 9:30 am
Save the date and take on the “Endure” class at ProjectMove with Marguerite! This will be a 45-minute conditioning and core-intensive workouts that don’t require prior experience, but do require a desire to be even fitter than when you walked in! With a focus on dumbbell, kettlebell, cardio, and bodyweight movements. Don’t let your body adapt to the way you’re training and ENDURE greater and different challenges.