Yoga Techniques for Chemotherapy Recovery - Aura Wellness Center

Yoga Techniques for Chemotherapy Recovery

chemotherapyBy 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.

© Copyright – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

To see our selection of Yoga teacher training courses, please visit the following link.

Click here too see our online Yoga Nidra teacher training course.

Are you an experienced teacher looking for YACEP credits or continuing education?

Subscribe to Our Newsletter for Special Discounts and New Products

Related Resources

Gentle Yoga for Recovery & Beyond


52 Essential Principles of Yoga Philosophy to Deepen your Practice

by Rina Jakubowicz.


A Relaxing Way to De-stress, Re-energize, and Find Balance

by: Gail Boorstein Grossman.


by B.K.S. Iyengar

TEACHING YOGA: Essential Foundations and Techniques

By Mark Stephens

Teaching Yoga As a Profession – Consultants and Mentors

Making Unrealistic Claims About Yoga

Yoga Exercises for Mindfulness

Baer, R. A., Carmody, J., & Hunsinger, M. (2012). Weekly change in mindfulness and perceived stress in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68(7), 755–765.

Bohlmeijer, E., Prenger, R., Taal, E., & Cuijpers, P. (2010). The effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction therapy on mental health of adults with a chronic medical disease: a meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 68(6), 539–544.

Boinon, D., Sultan, S., Charles, C., Stulz, A., Guillemeau, C., Delaloge, S., & Dauchy, S. (2014). Changes in psychological adjustment over the course of treatment for breast cancer: the predictive role of social sharing and social support. Psycho-Oncology, 23(3), 291–298.

Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(4), 822–848.

Cameron, L. D., Leventhal, H., & Love, R. R. (1998). Trait anxiety, symptom perceptions, and illness-related responses among women with breast cancer in remission during a tamoxifen clinical trial. Health Psychology, 17(5), 459–469.

Campbell, T. S., Labelle, L. E., Bacon, S. L., Faris, P., & Carlson, L. E. (2012). Impact of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on attention, rumination and resting blood pressure in women with cancer: a waitlist-controlled study. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 35(3), 262–271.

Carlson, L. E., & Brown, K. W. (2005). Validation of the mindful attention awareness scale in a cancer population. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 58(1), 29–33.

Carlson, L. E., & Speca, M. (2010). Mindfulness-based cancer recovery: a step-by-step MBSR approach to help you cope with treatment and reclaim your life. Oakville: New Harbinger.

Carlson, L. E., Speca, M., Patel, K. D., & Goodey, E. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction in relation to quality of life, mood, symptoms of stress and levels of cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEAS) and melatonin in breast and prostate cancer outpatients. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 29(4), 448–474.

Carlson, L. E., Doll, R., Stephen, J., Faris, P., Tamagawa, R., Drysdale, E., & Speca, M. (2013). Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness-based cancer recovery versus supportive expressive group therapy for distressed survivors of breast cancer (MINDSET). Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2013, 3119–3226. doi:10.1200/JCO.2012.47.5210.

Carmody, J., & Baer, R. A. (2008). Relationships between mindfulness practice and levels of mindfulness, medical and psychological symptoms and well-being in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program. Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 31(1), 23–33.

Carmody, J., & Baer, R. A. (2009). How long does a mindfulness-based stress reduction program need to be? A review of class contact hours and effect sizes for psychological distress. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65(6), 627–638.

Carson, J. W., Carson, K. M., Porter, L. S., Keefe, F. J., Shaw, H., & Miller, J. M. (2007). Yoga for women with metastatic breast cancer: results from a pilot study. Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 33(3), 331–341.

Den Oudsten, B. L., Van Heck, G. L., Vander Steeg, A. F. W., Roukema, J. A., & De Vries, J. (2009). Predictors of depressive symptoms 12 months after surgical treatment of early-stage breast cancer. Psycho-Oncology, 18(11), 1230–1237.

Dobkin, P. L., & Zhao, Q. (2011). Increased mindfulness—the active component of the mindfulness-based stress reduction program? Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice, 17, 22–27.

Esch, L., Roukema, J. A., Steeg, A. F. W., & Vries, J. (2011). Trait anxiety predicts disease-specific health status in early-stage breast cancer patients. Quality of Life Research: An International Journal of Quality of Life Aspects of Treatment, Care & Rehabilitation, 20(6), 865–873.

Garland, S. N., Carlson, L. E., Cook, S., Lansdell, L., & Speca, M. (2007). A non-randomized comparison of mindfulness-based stress reduction and healing arts programs for facilitating post-traumatic growth and spirituality in cancer outpatients. Supportive Care in Cancer, 15(8), 949–961.

Henderson, V. P., Clemow, L., Massion, A. O., Hurley, T. G., Druker, S., & Hebert, J. R. (2012). The effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on psychosocial outcomes and quality of life in early-stage breast cancer patients: a randomized trial. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment, 131(1), 99–109.

Hoffman, C. J., Ersser, S. J., Hopkinson, J. B., Nicholls, P. G., Harrington, J. E., & Thomas, P. W. (2012). Effectiveness of mindfulness-based stress reduction in mood, breast- and endocrine-related quality of life, and well-being in stage 0 to III breast cancer: a randomized, controlled trial. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 30(12), 1335–1342.

Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness. New York: Delta.

Labelle, L. E., Lawlor-Savage, L., Campbell, T. S., Faris, P., & Carlson, L. E. (2014). Does self-report mindfulness mediate the effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) on spirituality and posttraumatic growth in cancer patients? The Journal of Positive Psychology.

Lengacher, C. A., Johnson-Mallard, V., Post-White, J., Moscoso, M. S., Jacobsen, P. B., Klein, T. W., … Kip, K. E. (2009). Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) for survivors of breast cancer. Psycho-Oncology, 18(12), 1261–1272. doi:10.1002/pon.1529.

Lengacher, C. A., Kip, K. E., Barta, M., Post-White, J., Jacobsen, P. B., Groer, M., … Shelton, M. M. (2012). A pilot study evaluating the effect of mindfulness-based stress reduction on psychological status, physical status, salivary cortisol, and interleukin-6 among advanced-stage cancer patients and their caregivers. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 30(3), 170–185.

Mackenzie, M. J., Carlson, L. E., Munoz, M., & Speca, M. (2007). A qualitative study of self-perceived effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) in a psychosocial oncology setting. Stress and Health: Journal of the International Society for the Investigation of Stress, 23(1), 59–69.

Mackenzie, M. J., Carlson, L. E., Ekkekakis, P., Paskevich, D. M., & Culos-Reed, S. N. (2013). Affect and mindfulness as predictors of change in mood disturbance, stress symptoms, and quality of life in a community-based yoga program for cancer survivors. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: ECAM, 2013, 419496.

Peterman, A. H., Fitchett, G., Brady, M. J., Hernandez, L., & Cella, D. (2002). Measuring spiritual well-being in people with cancer: the functional assessment of chronic illness therapy—spiritual well-being scale (FACIT-sp). Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 24(1), 49–58.

Piet, J., Wurtzen, H., & Zachariae, R. (2012). The effect of mindfulness-based therapy on symptoms of anxiety and depression in adult cancer patients and survivors: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 80(6), 1007–1020.

Speca, M., Carlson, L. E., Goodey, E., & Angen, M. (2000). A randomized, wait-list controlled clinical trial: the effect of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction program on mood and symptoms of stress in cancer outpatients. Psychosomatic Medicine, 62(5), 613–622.

Tedeschi, R. G., & Calhoun, L. G. (1996). The posttraumatic growth inventory: measuring the positive legacy of trauma. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 9(3), 455–471.



Related Posts

Yoga for Cancer Survivors

Benefits of Yoga Nidra

Can Yoga Help Cancer Treatment?

Yoga in the Health Care Setting

Making Unrealistic Claims About Yoga

Is Yoga for PTSD Effective?

4 thoughts on “Yoga Techniques for Chemotherapy Recovery”

  1. Repeating a yoga sequence each morning, or evening, can be a powerful routine to help the healing process, by building strength and agility. Thanks for this good article!

Leave a Comment

Your Cart