yoga for chemotherapyBy Sanjeev Patel, CYT 500

When did Hatha Yoga become recognized as a form of therapy? How has it performed as an adjunct therapy for recovery from standard cancer treatments like chemotherapy? These are practical questions on the minds of people who face hard decisions concerning their personal lives and medical conditions.

During the 15th century, an Indian Yogi named Swatmarama introduced a combination of physical, lifestyle, breathing and spiritual discipline that came together to make up what we know today has Hatha yoga. According to Yogi Swatmarama, the reconciling of our essential and opposing natures could result in a life of balance and ultimately peace.

By bringing into harmony your “ha”, which means sun, and your “tha” which means moon, we’re able to release mental and physical healing energies. Today millions of people have adopted the practice of hatha yoga asanas, or poses, to improve flexibility and strength, but medical science has devoted more and more research to the healing properties of yoga for serious conditions, including cancer.

In an effort to give patients relief from the damaging side effects of treatments like chemotherapy, physicians have conducted studies showing sleeplessness, fatigue, and pain can all be reduced with a steady yoga practice.  This is crucial information that should be shared online or in Yoga teacher training courses.

The study of stress relief as a complement to western medicine dates as far back as 1962. When the publication, Cancer Research, reported that laboratory animals infected with cancer cells, saw marked improvement when exposed to stress relieving conditions, it sparked an entire movement devoted to alternative treatments, including hatha yoga.

Because cancer is caused by the multiplication of infected cells, due to an immune system weakened by stress, anything that acts to reduce your stress level has gained valuable attention. So much so, that the American Cancer Society itself has deemed yoga an important “complementary therapy” for the treatment of cancer.

According to yoga master Maharishi Patanjali, yoga is based in self-purification, and each technique is designed to address every organ, gland, nerve and muscle in the body. If we are holding tension in one area as opposed to another, there is less of a chance that healing energy can get through, thus leaving that area of your body compromised.

So, it’s not the acute stress, that can often save us by forcing our system into action, but the chronic stress that we experience every day. Worrying about upcoming surgery, chemotherapy, and lifestyle changes can wear away at our cellular make up, and hatha yoga helps us to consistently release that pressure.

As a result of encouraging research about the link between hatha yoga and its benefits for cancer patients, places like the Commonweal Center in Bolinas, California, and the Ting-Sha Cancer Retreat, north of San Francisco, are sprouting up. Giving survivors a chance to meet with like minded people, and perhaps, find a spiritual answer to a physical ailment.

Hari Om Tat Sat

References:

Ülger, Özlem (2010) Effects of yoga on the quality of life in cancer patients. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice 16(2)

Smith, Kelly B. (2008) An evidence-based review of yoga as a complementary intervention for patients with cancer. Psycho-Oncology

Sridhar C R. Yoga and Cancer. J Can Res Ther 2011;7:391-2

Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing by Timothy McCall, M.D. 

Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Translation and Commentary by Sri Swami Satchidananda 

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© Copyright 2011 – Sanjeev Patel / Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

Sanjeev Patel is a certified Yoga teacher and an exclusive author for Aura Wellness Center.

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