Cancer is a devastating disease that claims millions of lives each year. The conventional treatments for people who have been diagnosed with cancer also damage the body and mind and significantly reduce quality of life. While many doctors still believe that chemotherapy, radiation, and other toxic procedures are the only treatments necessary for ending cancer, an ancient practice may be the best complementary medicine to help with this modern dilemma.
Cancer is characterized by cells mutating so that they become sick but refuse to die, the way normal cells do when they become ill or reach a certain age. Cancer cells contain genetic errors that cause them to reproduce illness uncontrollably, until eventually the entire organ, system, or organism breaks down. Conventional treatments for cancer such as chemotherapy and radiation blast the body with poisons to kill the cancer cells, but healthy cells are damaged in the process. People who have undergone a long chemotherapy treatment protocol often experience a type of cognitive dysfunction known as “chemo brain” due to the restriction of the brain’s blood supply. This causes many of them to become depressed, loose mental focus and short-term memory, and experience anxiety and confusion. And while for many people these are still the best treatment options, they do not stand alone as tools for restoring wellness.
To return people to health, whether they underwent chemotherapy or other types of cancer treatment, complementary therapies are essential. Once such complementary therapy is yoga. Practicing yoga that is properly adapted for the needs of the recovering patient has been proven to be effective in helping to restore health.
Practicing yoga supports the immune system, boosts the metabolism, balances the endocrine system, and improves digestion – all key factors in recovering from, or even potentially preventing, the development of cancer. Yoga also improves lymphatic and cardiovascular circulation and detoxification, supporting the body in restoring health after toxic cancer treatments.
The deep breathing, stretching, balancing, and meditative focus of Hatha Yoga all support the mind and body to return to optimal functioning. When combined with complementary practices like pranayama (breath awareness exercises) kriyas (cleansing protocols), and dietary support, yoga practice is even more effective at renewing the body and mind.
Through a three week residential program at the Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute in Lonavala, India, it was discovered that a combination of yoga asanas (poses), pranyama, kriyas, personalized ayurvedic treatments, lifestyle and nutrition counseling, and other complimentary techniques helped people recovering from cancer treatments feel more empowered and experience improved quality of life.
Other studies of yoga for cancer have shown it to be equally promising for restoring dynamic wellbeing. For example, one review of several studies of women with breast cancer found that yoga improved women’s emotional and cognitive functioning during and after cancer treatment.
Cancer is an unfortunate commonality in today’s world. It is usually treated with toxic chemical and radiation therapies that are potentially quite destructive for physical and mental health. But the ancient science of yoga provides tools that can help people restore their health and wellbeing during and after cancer treatment.