Yoga is an ancient practice that involves a series of movements and postures (asanas), breathing exercises (pranayama) and periods of meditation that promote a deeper connection with oneself. The word yoga means "connecting" or "union". Yoga connects the body, mind, soul and breath by seeking harmony and concentration, without mental distractions. Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years. People who strictly follow the discipline observe a number of beliefs and practices, including ethics, nutrition and spirituality.
There are many different forms of yoga. Some types focus on physical poses and alignment. Other types focus on breath control and awareness, and still others place greater emphasis on meditation, philosophy, selfless service or purification techniques. Hatha yoga is the most common form of yoga studio practice in North America. It is also a general term for all forms of yoga that involve the adoption of classical yoga postures and breathing methods. Types of hatha yoga include Iyengar, Restorative, Sivananda, Kundalini and Anusara yoga, to name a few.
You can learn yoga from books or videos, but it is best to learn with a qualified yoga teacher in a group setting or in individual private lessons. This reduces your risk of injury and ensures that you learn the poses and breathing techniques properly.
You may feel more comfortable taking private sessions with a certified yoga therapist. Therapeutic yoga, or yogatherapy, is the use of yoga philosophy, poses, breathing methods and meditation for certain illnesses or dysfunctions. Therapeutic yoga is a one-on-one session that involves all layers of your being: mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. A yogatherapist can come to your home to help you with specific issues. For example, a yogatherapist can work with you when you are feeling physically weak or fragile, experiencing physical or emotional pain, or if you want to boost your immune system or better manage stress. Yogatherapists often work on anxiety, insomnia and pain, which are common in people receiving cancer treatment.
As with any new exercise program or mental health intervention, it is best to talk to your health care team about whether yoga is safe for you. It may also be a good idea to ask the yogatherapist to contact your health care team.
Yoga as complementary therapy
At this time, there is no evidence that yoga can treat cancer on its own. Research indicates that yoga can be useful in helping to relieve high blood pressure and improve heart rate, breathing, metabolism and body temperature. Yoga can improve strength, mobility, bone health, cardiovascular health, breathing patterns and other physiological systems, and can reduce pain. On a mental level, yoga can increase well-being, relieve stress, help relieve pain and make you feel relaxed. People who practice yoga believe that this therapy helps to improve their quality of life.
Research has found that yoga can help people with cancer relieve anxiety and depression. Yoga has also been shown to increase feelings of spiritual well-being.
Some research has shown that yoga can potentially alleviate fatigue or sleep disturbances.
Side effects and risks of yoga
If you are considering trying yoga or any form of exercise that involves joint and muscle movements you are not used to, talk to your health care team. Make sure your yoga instructor is aware of your cancer diagnosis and any physical limitations you may have. Your instructor should be able to show you how to do the poses and how to change poses safely to suit your needs.
Side effects from yoga are rare, but yoga injuries are becoming more common, especially in people who have not had an individual assessment based on their needs and abilities. Overstretching joints and ligaments can cause injury. It's best to start slowly, know your limits, don't rekindle past pain or discomfort, and ask the yoga instructor any questions you have before the class begins.
Some yoga poses that require physical exertion may not be appropriate if you have cancer that has spread to your bones (bone metastases) and are at risk for fractures. However, gentle breathing and meditation methods would likely be appropriate. If necessary, consult your health care team.
If you are still undergoing cancer treatment or if you have lymphedema, you should not practice hot yoga (bikram), a very intense variation of yoga that takes place in an overheated room (at least 40°C).
Yoga for cancer
It is no longer a question of proving that sport is a formidable remedy to combat disease. Yoga can be a valuable tool to help you live better with cancer. And it is above all a discipline accessible to all, whether you are not very athletic at the grassroots level or an experienced sportswoman!
Yoga means "union" in Sanskrit. It is a discipline born in India hundreds of years ago. It is above all about unifying body and mind through more or less physical movements and meditation based on a real reflection on oneself. Yoga allows to regain a consciousness of oneself beyond the disease, beyond the treatments.
"Dukha" means suffering in Sanskrit and represents a tight space, a closure in the body. Yoga makes it possible to pass from this tight space to an open space, called "sukha".
Why do yoga during cancer?
Many health professionals recommend yoga as a physical activity during cancer treatments! Many women who have gone through the disease have used this discipline to help them get through this ordeal as well as possible.
Yoga, an ally for the morale
This gentle sport allows you to regain stability in the body, thanks to different tools such as gravity, supports and body weight. It can thus help to regain self-confidence and leave pain and suffering behind. We realize that we have presence. We go from a packed body to a straightened body. The axis of the spine unfolds and restores strength, flexibility and concentrated energy. Yoga sessions allow us to find ourselves: to find who we are beyond illness.
And for the physical
In addition to morale, yoga can also have an effect on your physical condition and fitness! It will bring you benefits in terms of vitality, analgesia, pain relief. But also in terms of reducing stress and improving sleep. It is particularly indicated to gently resume a physical activity in order to regain your fitness weight after the treatments. Especially those that can play on your scale such as tamoxifen for example.
Last little extra
Yoga can also help you relieve back pain as it strengthens and builds muscle throughout the body. Indeed, most back problems are not related to a lack of toning but to a lack of flexibility. It is because we are stiff that we are in pain. Yoga is therefore an excellent way to get rid of those bad back pains that annoy us every day!
Why Choose Yoga as a Sport During Cancer
In yoga, there are no forbidden or contraindicated postures when undergoing cancer treatment. It is above all a question of listening to your body, which will tell you by itself when to stop! 😉
So, don't force yourself if positions seem too complicated, if you are out of breath or simply don't feel like it. Your session must remain a pleasurable moment! And of course, if you decide to enroll in a yoga class, don't forget to discreetly inform your teacher about your health condition. He will know how to take care of you during your sessions.