For people living with any type of cancer, from the most aggressive, like mesothelioma, to stage I breast cancer, pain, fatigue, and other symptoms become commonplace. The symptoms, side effects, and negative emotions that come with living with cancer can take a toll on a person and her experience of life. While fighting cancer, patients can find some relief going outside traditional medicine. Yoga has been proven through research to have a number of benefits that can help these patients feel better and enjoy life more.
Studies have found that regular yoga practice can change the experience of pain. This is important for anyone living with cancer because pain is a common side effect and for some people it can be severe. Researchers have shown that people practicing yoga regularly develop a better tolerance for pain. So, yoga may not reduce pain, but with better tolerance it feels that way.
Pain and fatigue are two of the most common symptoms and side effects of treatment that cancer patients report. The fatigue that comes with chemotherapy can be severe and debilitating. Yoga has been proven to be energizing, specifically for cancer patients. In studies in which patients either participated in regular yoga classes or did not, those who tried yoga reported less fatigue and more energy.
Stress, fear, anxiety, depression, and other negative emotion are common for people after cancer diagnosis and while battling through treatment. These feelings can hold someone back and prevent her from enjoying life, but yoga can be a powerful tool in fighting them. We know from research that yoga reduces stress by lowering cortisol levels. Yoga provides relaxation, a sense of calm, and a healthy way of coping with negative emotions. In studies with people who do not necessarily have cancer, yoga has been proven to boost mood and reduce symptoms of clinical depression and anxiety disorders.
Reducing pain, lessening stress, and gaining more energy are all powerful and important benefits of yoga for cancer patients, but there is more to it than what academic studies tell us. Someone living with cancer may struggle to get out of bed, to be active, or to do the things she used to enjoy, including being social. Yoga gives her a chance to focus on something positive, an excuse to get up and get out, and a reason to be around other people, and to be less isolated. All of these factors help to improve quality of life for cancer patients who get involved with yoga.
The practice of yoga comes in many different forms, and for cancer patients, a gentle, more inward focused style is best. Restorative yoga, yin yoga, and any other type that is described as gentle or for beginners are appropriate for patients who have physical limitations. While yoga can provide so many benefits, if pushed too hard, a cancer patient may be harmed by physical activity. Any patient interested in trying yoga for all these amazing benefits should talk to her doctor first to get the go ahead and then work with an instructor that understands her limitations and needs.