By Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500, YACEP
A medical procedure, as traumatic as chemotherapy, requires patience, strength, and a fierce desire to get well. Chemotherapy affects the entire body and mind, causing patients to feel weak, tired, and sometimes, hopeless. The process of healing must involve the mind as well as the body.
A positive attitude can go a long way toward healing. Laughter Yoga, Yogic relaxation techniques and meditation are powerful methods for keeping one’s mind in a positive mode. A positive mindset is just as important as physical recovery, and Yoga ultimately helps one experience the best physical, mental, and emotional health.
On the physical level, chemotherapy drains the body and mind. As a result, patients must gradually build back strength and stamina by eating healthy and beginning to be more active. If given the chance, the body can be a powerful instrument for self-healing. Restorative Yoga poses and breathing can be an extremely therapeutic way to navigate back to a healthy mind and body.
Pranayama – Yogic Breathing
Stress is a large factor when dealing with any serious illness. Breathing and meditation are healthy ways to release the stress and negative thoughts and energy from the body. Breathing deeply, and fully, is a simple form of meditation that helps chemotherapy patients focus on filling the abdomen and lungs with clean air – then, pushing it out. Belly breathing can be accompanied by positive visualizations to increase healing within the body.
Patients should find a quiet, comfortable spot to sit or lie. Breathe in through the nose, filling up first the belly, then the chest until full. Then, slowly let the breath out through the mouth. Patients may also choose a mudra to channel healing to specific parts of the body. Meditations can also be accompanied with positive mantras, or affirmations, such as – “I am strong and healthy.,” or “My body will heal itself with time and effort.” Belly breathing can be done anytime, anywhere, to release anxiety and encourage healing within the body.
Yoga Postures for Cancer Treatment
Any of the many Yoga poses can benefit recovering chemotherapy patients. Depending on one’s energy level, ground-based (seated, supine. or prone) Yoga postures may be better for days when energy is taxed. Additionally, Yoga poses can easily be modified with blankets, bolsters, chairs, blocks, straps, or other devices. Patients should do only what feels right for their body. Sometimes, it is nice to focus on something besides the pain for a while, concentrating instead on relaxing, breathing, and stretching. Patients can focus on a specific area of the body that feels tight, to release any joint or muscles tightness, or they can opt for an overall body stretch. Patients should start out slow – doing only what they can. They will soon realize their body is strong and capable. This will encourage them to continue practicing Yoga throughout the healing process and beyond.
Yoga for Healing – Keep it Simple
Healing, Yin, Restorative, Therapeutic Yoga and mindfulness meditation do not have to be complex, physically taxing, or vigorous. Patients, who are new to Yoga, can begin by learning one or two poses to practice on a regular basis. Repeating a sequence each morning, or evening, can be a powerful routine to help the healing process, by building strength and agility.
One last point to mention is holistic healing methods are being embraced by standard medicine, because of the positive results. Chinese internal martial arts, such as: Tai Chi and Qigong are among the many popular methods for recovery from chemotherapy. The point is to engage the mind and body without draining energy from the patient. In fact, some patients continue to practice long after recovery, because these methods created newfound energy, optimism, and quality of life.
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