By: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed
If you are coping with a cancer diagnosis, remember that you are not alone! Unfortunately, the incidence of cancer has risen dramatically over the last fifty years. By some estimates, one in two people will be affected by cancer at some point in their lives, as opposed to one in twenty people fifty years ago. This increase in the incidence of cancer is quite daunting. So, if you are a Yoga practitioner and you are facing a cancer diagnosis, you are clearly not the only one. However, even if you are not alone, dealing with cancer can be very overwhelming and incredibly upsetting.
According to experts, many forms of cancer are related to environmental toxicity. Some researchers believe that up to 95% of all cancers are related to environmental factors. For those of us who have a genetic vulnerability to developing certain types of cancer, the high level of carcinogenic chemicals in our food, air and water directly promotes the development and growth of cancer cells. One of the most important aspects of fighting cancer and winning is limiting your exposure to carcinogenic compounds in the environment, in addition to supporting the optimal functioning of your immune system.
Many of the cutting-edge allopathic treatments are now focused on boosting the immune system, because the functioning of the immune system is so critical to winning the war against cancer. In addition, many of the natural protocols for beating cancer entail nutritional recommendations and herbal supplements for enhancing the immune system. One of the primary ways of boosting the functioning of your immune system is to get enough deep, restorative sleep. Sleeping well is one of the most important factors of allowing the body to balance, heal and fight disease of all kinds. A regular practice of Yoga postures and breathing exercises will help to promote restorative, deep sleep.
Taking in an adequate amount of vitamin D is another critical element of supporting your immunity. Spending time outside in the sunshine for twenty to thirty minutes a day will help to boost you immune system. By combining moderate physical exercise, such as Yoga, with being outside in the sun, you will further support your immune system. If it is too cold to spend time outside, or it is cloudy or rainy much of the time to receive your vitamin D from the sun’s rays, you may want to take a vitamin D supplement. If you are fighting cancer, maintaining an adequate level of vitamin D is critical to winning the war against cancer.
Researchers are discovering that an optimal amount of vitamin D is one of the most important aspects of maintaining a strong immune system, keeping your mood optimistic and lowering inflammation throughout the body. In addition, by remembering to breath deeply and take in fresh oxygen, you will help to create an internal environment that is not conducive to the growth of cancer. If you are a Yoga practitioner, the combined practice of Yoga postures, breathing exercises and relaxation techniques will comprehensively support your physical and emotional well-being, while you strive to eradicate cancer and reestablish an optimal state of health.
Another critical element to winning the war against cancer is to maintain strong connections with your loved ones and your community at large. By taking Yoga classes at a studio or health club, you will easily maintain your connection with others and also help to support your health through a balanced practice of Yoga postures and breathing exercises. In order to increase the level of oxygen in your body, practicing gentle Yogic breathing exercises will flood your tissues with more oxygen. By saturating your tissues with oxygen, you will create an internal environment that is inhospitable to the growth of cancer cells.
Including pranayama exercises into your Yoga practice will also nurture your body’s ability to relax, which will boost your immune system, as the adrenalin-fueled release of cortisol is turned off for a period of time each day. As you consciously practice Yogic breathing exercises, you may discover that you have been unconsciously holding your breath or breathing in a shallow manner most of the time, especially if you have been dealing with a life-threatening illness such as cancer. Consciously practicing Yogic breathing exercises will help to retrain your body to relax and take in the life giving energy of fresh oxygen on a daily basis.