By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed
Coping with a cancer diagnosis can be extremely frightening and overwhelming, to a point where you may actually feel immobilized by fear. Receiving a life threatening diagnosis can feel like your entire life is being derailed and held hostage by the disease that you have developed. However, by continuing to engage in the activities that nourish your body, mind and spirit, you will support yourself in moving through a very difficult time in your life with more ease and well being. There are many ways to incorporate the different techniques and tools that a comprehensive practice of Yoga can offer to you, in order to fully support your recovery from cancer.
If you are a dedicated Yoga practitioner and you have received a cancer diagnosis, you may be feeling quite shocked, incredulous and overwhelmed. This is a common reaction to receiving such a serious health diagnosis, especially if you feel like you have a very healthy lifestyle already established. Unfortunately, because of all the toxicity in our environment, including in our food, water and air, many of us who are vulnerable to developing cancer will do so at a much earlier age than in previous generations. However, it is important to remember that you still have a lot of power to determine your own level of health during your recovery process.
By actively supporting your physical and mental health through your journey with cancer, you will increase the likelihood that you will beat the cancer completely and regain a state of vibrant well being and full functionality. A few of the primary benefits of a regular practice of Yoga postures and breathing exercises are rebuilding physical strength and stamina and releasing mental stress and tension. By maintaining and/or rebuilding your muscular strength, both during and after cancer treatments, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and control, which will help you to more gracefully navigate your day. You will also be more able to physically accomplish your daily tasks if you maintain your strength and agility.
There are two different ways to build muscle strength during the practice of Yoga. The first way is through active muscle resistance. This is this is the type of weight training that many of us are familiar with when we go to a gym and lift weights. Weight machines help build muscle tissue by the repetitive lifting of weights that are specifically geared to strengthen different parts of the body. In the same way, by holding your own body weight up during the practice of the Yoga postures, you will progressively strengthen your body through active muscle resistance.
The practice of Yoga is a form of functional fitness, which means that the Yoga postures strengthen your muscles in a holistic fashion, by moving both small and large muscle groups in many different directions when you practice a balanced set of asanas. The second way that the practice of Yoga postures can help you to build muscle strength is through passive muscle resistance. This form of muscle resistance is gentle and relies on the weight of your own body and the power of gravity to create more ease and flexibility in your connective tissues, including in stiff joints and ligaments.
If you have spent a substantial amount of time in bed recovering from a variety of cancer treatments, practicing a very gentle series of supported Yoga postures that employ passive muscle resistance will help you to strengthen your body, without undue strain. In addition, if you include some gentle breathing exercises into your daily Yoga practice, you will further support yourself in maintaining a positive attitude by keeping your stress at a manageable level while you recover from cancer. By engaging in a daily ritual of self-care through the practice of some combination of Yoga postures, breathing exercises and relaxation techniques, you will be more able to sustain your health and well being during this challenging time in your life.
Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York, where she works as a writer and an academic support specialist. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.