What Cancer Patients & Survivors Should Know About Practicing Yoga
by Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer
This is the first article in a two-part series, detailing how a consistent yoga practice is beneficial for relieving challenges associated with chronic, terminal or developmental conditions.
Cancer patients know firsthand the most debilitating aspect of this ordeal is not necessarily the disease itself, but often the aftershocks of radiation or chemotherapy such as nausea, weakness, fatigue and other symptoms that can interfere with even the most routine activities. These physical challenges can also impact one’s emotional, spiritual and psychological equilibrium, causing issues with poor self-esteem, depression, anxiety or strain on relationships.
In order to combat these side-effects, an increasing number of cancer patients have discovered relief through alternative methods, and one option that has been found acutely beneficial is yoga. This ancient healing practice is a gentle, therapeutic outlet for reconditioning the body’s range-of-motion, while sustaining balance within the mind and spirit. When utilized as a holistic adjunct to Western oncology, this Eastern discipline can significantly enhance a person’s well-being throughout the entire course of treatment.
Each unique asana, the yogic term for posture, is designed to engage muscle and joint mobility, increase circulation, arouse deep breathing and stimulate lymphatic drainage. These processes work together to facilitate purification of the toxins that often result from harsh medications, surgeries or procedures.
“Yoga encourages the practitioners to relax, reconnect and gain a compassionate level of appreciation for their own bodies, while restoring both strength and flexibility,” enumerates Liana Bryant, the director of Rosemary Court Yoga in downtown Sarasota. “This calming sequence brings people into a more nurtured space, urging them to slow down, tune inward, and release negative thoughts or fears. Yoga is also effective for reducing stress or anxiety which enhances one’s mental state and improves their quality of life throughout challenging times.”
Stress management is foundational to a treatment regimen because pent-up tension stifles immune function which can inhibit the body’s natural disease-fighting properties. In fact, researchers at UCLA have found a linkage between cancer recovery rates and decreased stress due to a consistent yoga practice. Enthusiasts of the ancient modality often refer to this healing benefit as the “internal anchor of calm.”
In addition, cancer patients can experience a heightened social connection through awareness of a unified, harmonious bond that exists within the broader community of practitioners. “This provides a comforting support system in the midst of rigorous treatment,” Bryant explains. For those currently facing the disease or recovering from its impact on the mind, body and spirit, Bryant recommends a Gentle Yoga sequence. “We offer a number of these classes during the week, and our full schedule can be found online,” she continues.
While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to alleviating cancer related pain or discomfort, prioritizing yoga in conjunction with mainstream medical care promotes a sense of wellness, mindfulness and vitality. These attributes could make all the difference to someone who is ultimately fighting for their life.
Liana Bryant is an E-RYT-500 certified instructor through the Yoga Alliance and the director of Rosemary Court Yoga, located at 810 Central Avenue, Sarasota. To view the entire class schedule, visit RosemaryCourt.com/classes. For more information, call 941-952-5280 or email RosemaryCourt@yahoo.com.
Mary-Elizabeth Schurrer is the Managing Editor of Natural Awakenings Sarasota–Manatee. She also works as a freelance writer, blogger and social media marketer based in Southwest Florida. Her personal blog HealthBeAHippie.Wordpress.com features practical tips for embracing an active, nutritious and empowered lifestyle.