Yoga Benefit #1: Yoga Detoxifies the Body

 

by Tari Prinster. Excerpt from ‘Yoga for Cancer: A Guide to Managing Side Effects, Boosting Immunity, and Improving Recovery for Cancer Survivors’. Purchase your copy today.

Detoxification is the metabolic process by which toxins, or harmful things, are changed into less toxic substances and flushed from the body.  Similar to how an environmentalist would remove pollution from a lake by flushing it with fresh water and directing drainage. Yoga is a powerful tool in the cleansing or detoxifying of our bodies.

Yoga borrows from the science of physics using the principles of movement, gravity and resistance to achieve this goal. All of our body’s systems participate in this cleansing process, but primarily the lymph system. Think about the lymph system as the body’s plumbing service and trash can for removing potential cancer cells, toxins and other waste (garbage!).  However, the lymph system has no organ that circulates its fluids, so it depends on the movement of muscles—especially the heartbeat, the breath and gravity—to flush waste from the body.  We use yoga to encourage lymphatic flow by placing the skeleton in certain postures, then moving them in specific patterns with our muscles.  Because muscles need more blood flow when moving than when resting, movement increases the heartbeat.  The demand for more blood results in a more rapid movement of blood being pumped through the cardiovascular channels located throughout the body.  Since the lymph system parallels the cardiovascular system, lymph fluid also flows better when blood is moving more forcefully and quickly.

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The largest lymph node “waste” collector is the thoracic duct located in the body’s center. The thoracic duct best kept secret of yoga and cancer experts. This central powerful vessel starts at the top of the sternum, reaching all the way to the small intestines.  Proper diaphragmatic breathing will move lymph fluid from the arms, legs, and head toward the thoracic duct.  From there, lymph fluid is cycled through the body’s laundry system and toxins are excreted, sweated out or otherwise expelled in the proper, well-designed process. Simple movements coordinated with diaphragmatic breathing does this. No magic. Just yoga.

The y4c methodology uses these three familiar physics principles in specific poses and with simple vinyasa sequences that involve actively moving muscles and bones. However, even seemingly passive restorative poses create subtle movement that directs the circulation of lymph and blood. By placing the head below the heart in restorative poses, gravity reverses the flow of body’s vital fluids. In addition, such poses encourage specific muscles to lengthen and relax. In itself, this may not appear to be a cleansing or detoxifying process, but considering that post-cancer treatment long-term side effects can leave a survivor’s body riddled with scar tissue and missing organs, creating obstacles to feeling and functioning normally, these poses are very liberating as they encourage passive movement of muscles and fluids.

Finally, yoga can clear, cleanse and “detoxify” the mind, too.  A cancer survivor lives with the fear of cancer returning, and this daily anxiety is a mental toxin.  By applying the same physical techniques, we detoxify the mind by using the movement of the breath, by relaxing into gravity in a restorative pose, and by managing negative thoughts while meditating. The biology of relaxation is based on the principle of reestablishing emotional balance. Left to itself, “the body will naturally relax when tired and arouse itself after rest.”1  Not so the mind. Yoga’s meditation tool can help to ‘refine’ the process of ushering out harmful, unnecessary and emotionally demanding thoughts. Even for a second, this can be a powerful benefit.

Let Pema Chodron’s words constantly irrigate, dilute and detoxify your thoughts. ‘No feeling last forever.’2

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Sources:

  • How Meditation Heals: Scientific Evidence and Practical Application, by Eric Harison, Ulysses Press, 2000
  • The Pocket Pema Chodron, Pema Chodron, Shambalah Press, 2008

YOGA BENEFIT # 2: YOGA STRENGTHENS THE BODY

 

by Tari Prinster. Excerpt from ‘Yoga for Cancer: A Guide to Managing Side Effects, Boosting Immunity, and Improving Recovery for Cancer Survivors’. Purchase your copy today.

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What defines a strong body?  Is it having sexy, toned muscles, or is it the ability to walk to your 8th floor apartment carrying 30 lbs. of groceries?  Some people choose to build a strong body with weightlifting and cardiovascular exercise in the gym, but not with yoga.  The physics of strength building is based on the same principle of creating resistance, regardless of where one pursues it.  The difference between going to the gym and doing y4c yoga is the difference between using weights and using your own body.

Cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation weaken the body in the act of eliminating cancer as a life-threatening disease. These treatments attack fast-growing cells, but healthy cells, such as bone cells, muscle cells, and the cells of most organs, are affected. Additionally, during active treatment, people face fatigue that makes normal activity challenging and contributes to further muscle atrophy.

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Many methods of building strength exist from weightlifting to vigorous walking to running. For a cancer patient and survivor, safety is a primary concern and yoga can build strength in a gentle and effective way. For example, yoga uses a person’s body weight as resistance unlike weightlifting. The y4c method eases the body into positions or using support systems, like yoga props, enabling people to build strength over time and without harmful pressure on a weakened skeleton.

Bone Strengthening. Individually, bones are rigid organs; linked together, they form the skeleton, our internal support structure.  Bone is living tissue made of calcium and collagens, and it is constantly changing—just like all body parts.  New bone cells are always replacing old ones.  There are two proteins in bone cells that are responsible for maintaining proper bones and density known as osteoblasts (which build bone) and osteoclasts (which diminish bone).  As we get older, this balance gets disturbed and having thin, weak bones is considered an inevitable part of aging—especially in menopausal women.  An overlooked side-effect of cancer treatments is the thinning of bones, which happens because the balance of these proteins is disturbed, much like they are in the elderly. Remember that chemotherapy is designed to interrupt the activity of cells that build. It targets osteoblasts in much the same way it targets cancer cells.

When bones are not stressed by how we use them, they do not build.  Research has shown one of the common solutions for weak bones is weight-bearing exercise.  In a study conducted at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in China in 2004, regular participation in weight-bearing exercise was beneficial for accruing peak bone mass and optimizing bone structure.[i]  Weight-bearing exercise has been mostly limited to the kind done with barbells, so the common recommendation to build bones is to lift weights.  A recent pilot study of osteoporosis and osteopenia sufferers suggested that 85 percent of the yoga practitioners gained bone in both the spine and the hip, while nearly every member of the control group either maintained or lost bone mass.5

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I believe yoga is safer for bone building than many gym routines because it stresses bones (or puts weight on them) in a precise, deliberate way. Through y4c methodology, we use our body weight and focuses on alignment through simple activities like balancing on one foot.

 

Cardiovascular Strength and Fitness. Running is a popular exercise to improve cardiovascular fitness. The goal is to enhance the body’s ability to deliver larger amounts of oxygen to working muscles along with burning calories for weight management. Cardiovascular fitness, like from running, results from the improved efficiency of a lower heart rate and from improved oxygenation throughout the body. A 2013 study showed that yoga improved several cardiovascular health advantages, like heart rate and respiratory function, at the same level as running. However, running and other high impact exercises can be risky for cancer patients and survivors due to weakened bones and joints. Running has been proven to contribute to osteoarthritis, arthritis of the joints that causes swelling and pain. Therefore, a regular yoga practice can provide the same cardiovascular benefits as running without risk to joints and pain. Furthermore, heart disease can be reversed, or at least managed, through diet, meditation, and yoga, as reported in Dr. Dean Ornish’s Program for Reversing Heart Disease (Ballantine, 1992).  Currently, Ornish is studying whether prostate cancer can be reversed by diet changes and yoga.

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Research shows that yoga helps keep a heart healthy and strong, and this is where the y4c methodology is different from other approaches to yoga for cancer patients and survivors that focus only on gentle and restorative yoga. We teach patterned movement, ranging from slow and gentle to active, which sometimes may appear similar to cardiovascular exercise—heart rate and breathing increase and people sweat! An example is the inclusion of a modified sun salutations, which is a sequence of yoga poses designed to move the spine, arms, and legs in precise directions combined with deep breathing. The body moves, the heart beats, blood flows, and the breath deepens—all combining to build a strong heart muscle.

Yoga Benefit #3: Yoga Increases Range of Motion and Flexibility

 

by Tari Prinster. Excerpt from ‘Yoga for Cancer: A Guide to Managing Side Effects, Boosting Immunity, and Improving Recovery for Cancer Survivors’. Purchase your copy today.

As a yoga teacher, I hear one thing all the time: “I can’t do yoga because I’m not flexible!” People say this before they’re diagnosed with cancer, or even if they are not given a cancer diagnosis. A flexible body is a useful body because we can do more with it, moving bones freely and without pain. We want to be able to reach for that shoebox on the top shelf, or bend over to tie our shoes.

Cancer treatments, however, can reduce flexibility because surgeries and radiation create scar tissue around muscles and joints. The scarring can make the body stiff and painful to move. Other treatments like chemotherapy and hormone therapy create joint stiffness, which decrease the body’s ability to bend, limiting the muscles and bones’ ability to work together efficiently. All of these problems make life’s daily and necessary functions difficult, such as being able to walk the dog, or to move a chair. In fact, we consider ourselves recovered from cancer when we have resumed ‘normal’ activities.

Tari Demonstrating Glam Gal

A yoga practice will improve flexibility, making movement easier. Like a parked car that will not move if it sits on its wheels for eight months, we must keep the joints moving and the muscles stretching, or they “rust.” (Actually, if we do not use muscles, they deteriorate more rapidly than we imagine.) What we learn is how to become more flexible by changing habits that prevent flexibility as well as how to protect ourselves as we reach our goals. This approach is designed to increase flexibility, and to regain and maintain mobility in daily life.

My y4c methodology looks at body movement in a logical, patterned way. Movements are slow and gentle, supported with careful attention placed on to where the bones are moved and with what muscles. Increasing range of motion happens by alternating the extention and flextion of muscles combined with patterned movement. You will learn how to explore your range of motion and be given guidelines to help you through various stages to regain range of motion, strength, and flexibility in general. You will also learn how to use passive, restorative poses and gravity to increase flexibility, as these use well-supported poses to soothe muscles. Gradually, you will go about daily life activities with less pain and more confidence.

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Yoga Benefit #4: Yoga Keeps the Spine Strong

 

by Tari Prinster. Excerpt from ‘Yoga for Cancer: A Guide to Managing Side Effects, Boosting Immunity, and Improving Recovery for Cancer Survivors’.  Pre-Order at Amazon.

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My spine was the reason I ‘found’ yoga. And the primary driver was vanity. About 15 years ago, I worried about developing the curve associated with age – like my mother had developed – and heard that yoga was good at preventing.  And it worked. Also I witnessed and learned that having correct spine posture goes beyond vanity; it keeps me healthy day in and day out. It ensures all my systems are functioning properly. Its vital to be being young as well as looking young.

Here’s why: Posture is the position in which we stack the bones of the spine (vertebrae) and use muscles to keep them in place. When we properly align the body, the spine takes on a beautiful, natural ‘S’ curve. When we let the body slump, we change the spine’s shape and restrict body systems like digestion, respiratory and cardiovascular, causing us to look and feel unhealthy. Bad posture limits and crowds the space necessary for lungs, stomach, intestines, and even the heart to function. We need oxygen to feed our cells, and we need our gastrointestinal system to be unrestricted so it can remove potential carcinogens from foods we have consumed. With good posture, adequate space exists for all the organs to work together. And in this way, good posture aids detoxification.

Yoga teaches us to align the bones of our spine to create good posture in every pose and movement. We also learn to use the breath to make the spine strong as well as the rest of the musculoskeletal system. The first step, however, is to take an honest look at your posture, like I did. This will help you determine what your ‘S’ curve is.*

In the y4c method, we seek to create proper alignment and good posture. We refine the techniques of movement through five natural and healthy directions in which to move the whole spine and keep it strong. They are: lengthening upward and downward, bending forward, bending backward, bending sideways, and twisting around the spinal column.

A recent Norwegian study confirms the benefits of yoga on vertebral fractures and osteoporosis. But the research warns that too aggressive a practice could be harmful, leading to compression of the spine. The study recommended “mild spinal flexion and extension” and “moderate weight-bearing.” This is why y4c methodology focuses on supported poses and deliberate alignment to ensure that the spine is not put under too much stress. For example, we encourage a Supported Forward Bend with blocks in order to protect lower vertebrae while enabling a student to gain the benefits of a forward bend.

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Finally, developing back strength for correct posture is essential for breast cancer survivors after axillary node surgeries (which I had) or breast reconstruction surgery (which I passed up). These procedures leave women (and some men) with significant scar tissue, reducing strength on both sides of the torso. Women who have undergone reconstructive surgery can face months of rehabilitation, pain and restricted movement. After my surgeries, my arm movement was restricted and I regained range of motion and strength with my yoga practice. Because breast cancer is the most newly diagnosed cancer in women at 29% of all cancer incidence, a yoga practice should look to improve flexibility, regain range of motion and reduce scar tissue for the upper body. Without careful focus on and consistent maintenance of abdominal and back muscles, the spine can become compromised, thus impacting other functions such as balance, breathing capacity, circulation of blood and lymph fluid, and proper digestion.

Sources:

  • American Cancer Society, ©2012 Surveillance Research
  • E.N. Smith and A. Boser. “Yoga, Vertebral Fractures, and Osteoporosis: Research and Recommendations.” International Journal of Yoga Therapy 23 (2013):17–23. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24016820

 

Yoga Benefit #5: Yoga Strengthens the Immune System

 

by Tari Prinster. Excerpt from ‘Yoga for Cancer: A Guide to Managing Side Effects, Boosting Immunity, and Improving Recovery for Cancer Survivors’.  Pre-Order Today!

Many people make the claim that if you practice yoga, you will strengthen the immune system. Often these claims are not substantiated by knowledge of what the immune system is and how it works. Let’s explore the ways in which cancer and treatments for cancer impair the immune system and how yoga practice bolsters it.

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The immune system is not a single, tangible part of the body like the lungs, heart, brain, or stomach. In one sense, the immune system includes all of the body’s parts and systems, being the interaction and union of all these systems (enclosed image is how I depict the immune system for myself and for my yoga teacher trainers). The goal of strengthening the immune system is to keep all the systems working together like working families in a large, healthy village. The failure of any one system threatens the health of the whole community—for example, if our bones are compromised from a break or osteoporosis (a side effect of chemotherapy) we will not be able produce new nourishing blood supply to feed our reproducing cells in other systems. Additionally,  the immune system is constantly on the lookout for a new or returning cancer cell.

Chemotherapy and other cancer treatments can compromise the immune system’s efficiency because they disrupt the development and balance of all cells, therefore stressing the body’s systems and increasing the risk of infection or other diseases. Specifically, treatments reduce white cells in the blood that are needed to form leukocytes, a natural immune protection. This is why it is so critical for active cancer patients to keep on “immune system alert.” Because yoga’s goal is to strengthen all body systems, the end product is an improved immune system.

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On a molecular level, we find further support that yoga boosts the immune system. Recent research has found that yoga causes an improvement in gene expression within lymphocytes, which are our cancer-fighting cells, often referred to as immune cells, that are being produced in our body all the time. Gene expression “is the process by which information from a gene is used to make a functional gene product,” which in this case is to aid lymphocyte production. In this science-based way yoga boosts our natural defense against cancer. Every y4c yoga movement, position, or patterned breathing technique has one goal: to strengthen the immune system!

Sources:

 

Benefit #6: Yoga Helps Manage Weight Gain

 

by Tari Prinster. Excerpt from ‘Yoga for Cancer: A Guide to Managing Side Effects, Boosting Immunity, and Improving Recovery for Cancer Survivors’.  Pre-Order Today!

When people think of cancer patients, they imagine skinny, fragile bodies. And yes, this is often the case during active treatment, prolonged treatment, or late stages of cancer. But for many people, weight gain is a common side effect of cancer treatment. Weight gain has significant impact on both physical and psychological aspects of a survivor’s life. And a great concern of weight gain is increased chances of reoccurrence.

Obesity is a key indicator of both cancer incidence and recurrence. The American Cancer Society recommends that obese individuals increase the standard weekly exercise from 150 minutes to 300 minutes per week to reduce the chances of cancer or recurrence.12 Thus managing one’s weight should be a focus of any cancer patient or survivor (and everyone in general).

Yoga provides a safe, gentle way to manage weight. Research on the impact of yoga on weight gain is still in early stages. One study showed that yoga had a more positive impact on obesity (and depression) than aerobic exercise.13

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But not all yoga is the same. And I would not argue that all styles will help you manage weight gain. Often, yoga for cancer survivors is focused on gentle or restorative yoga methods, which are necessary and beneficial approaches. But they are not an active yoga practice. Many yoga teachers are afraid to make cancer patients and survivors move and be active in class.

It is a mistake to coddle survivors, treating them as sick. I remember this from my own days of attending a yoga class with my bald head and the teacher encouraging me to lie in restorative poses and not participate in the active yoga class. I felt isolated, ashamed, and annoyed. Worse, if I had listened to my teacher, I would not have benefited fully from the active yoga practice. Therefore, including an active practice is the foundation of y4c methodology.

Tari Demonstrating Glam GalYoga for cancer survivors can be active, therefore calorie burning; and it can be safe, physically accessible, welcoming, and inclusive. Yoga can help cancer survivors manage weight gain, which improves self-esteem and the ability to function normally, and ultimately reduces the risk of recurrence.

Sources:

Benefit #7: Yoga Helps Manage Pain

 

by Tari Prinster. Excerpt from ‘Yoga for Cancer: A Guide to Managing Side Effects, Boosting Immunity, and Improving Recovery for Cancer Survivors’.  Pre-Order Today!

Dorothy is a tall, attractive Polish woman who is fifty-four years old. She had a double mastectomy when she was fifty-two, which was then followed by eight months of chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She tests positive for BRAC 1, the breast cancer gene. Her mother died of breast cancer at age forty-seven. Dorothy expressed concern to me before a recent yoga class about a new pain she was experiencing in her shoulder blades. As if whispering a secret, she asked me if it could be cancer. I was not surprised by her question, but asked her if she felt any pain when two years earlier she detected her breast cancer. “No,” she said, “Only a lump. . . . ”

It is not easy to listen to the body. We get so many aches and pains before, during, and after cancer. Most are not caused by cancer, but that is the fear. As survivors we are hyper-alert to new body sensations and naturally, we worry. The nervous system is a tricky alarm system sending signals that are sometimes confusing, false, or, as was the case with Dorothy, misunderstood.

Tari with Student in supported Childs PoseUntil advanced stages, most cancers do not cause pain. Rather, the treatment and their side effects can cause pain, not the cancer itself. Acknowledging this fact and then applying curiosity mixed with practical information help us manage our pain as well as our fears. In my conversations with Dorothy later on, she realized that the pain she was feeling, although real, was not due to cancer. Rather, it was a strained back muscle! During class, we did many poses and patterned movements that gave her relief and insights into how she was using her shoulder and arm.

But a yoga practice can reduce pain. Studies have concluded that yoga can help reduce pain for both non-cancer and cancer populations.14 Simple breathing exercises can ‘quiet the mind’ and provide respite from the sensations of pain.  Restorative poses – included in the active y4c method – enables the body to relax, heal and improves sleep.  Additionally,  the y4c methodology modifies traditional yoga poses so that individuals can practice with less pain and ease. There are ways to help you manage body sensations and to modify poses according to your body’s needs and the changing circumstances of your recovery on a daily basis.

An example of a pose that can be pain relieving but requires modification for SOME survivors is Childs Pose.  Read here for an explanation of how to modify this pose to enable the end benefit of relaxation and relief from pain, anxiety and stress.

Read the other Yoga Benefits here.  

  • Buffart et al., “Physical and Psychosocial Benefits of Yoga in Cancer Patients and Survivors, a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials,” 
  • Benefit #8: Yoga Helps Manage Fear and Anxiety

     

    by Tari Prinster. Excerpt from ‘Yoga for Cancer: A Guide to Managing Side Effects, Boosting Immunity, and Improving Recovery for Cancer Survivors’.  Pre-Order Today!

    Fear is one of the most common and overwhelming reactions to those three little words, “You have cancer.” For most of us, if not all of us, it puts us into a tailspin of fear of pain, the impact on family, loss of income, and ultimately, death. As a cancer survivor adjusts to a life-threatening disease, an additional alarm system emerges: uncertainty. From that point on, every tweak, pain, or twitch, even old familiar ones, creates anxiety. Anxiety about what is and is not cancer becomes a new threat and constant companion. This undercurrent of anxiety and fear impact mood, fear and anxietycauses depression, and affects quality and length of sleep. These then impact our body’s natural systems to heal and restore, further weakening a survivor’s physical and psychological status. It’s a nasty downward spiral.

    Yoga is well known for its powers of relaxation. Many are unaware of the physical benefits though they are easily understood and recognized in popular and modern culture. I want to provide some fact-based reasons for why yoga can help reduce anxiety and fear to essentially calm the nervous system.

    The nervous system is complex network of trillions of cells and countless communication pathways throughout the body. Information is delivered to the brain in the form of sensations through sight, hearing, tasting, smelling, touching, and feeling. And the body responds to these sensations, or signals, with pleasure or discomfort and pain. Both responses are interpretations made by the brain to protect us from harm, maximize health, and enhance well-being. If we were in freezing weather and didn’t have a nervous system, we wouldn’t know how cold we were and wouldn’t protect ourselves with winter clothing, risking serious conditions like hypothermia. Without the nervous system, we would not know what is happening in the body, and it would be impossible to take care of ourselves. So an anxious nervous system not only impacts the way we emotionally feel but how our body functions and the power of our immune system.

    Research about yoga’s positive impact on the nervous system, especially in reducing anxiety and fear, is plentiful. In 2013, a study conducted by the University of Calgary showed that practicing yoga led to improvements in mood, stress factors, and health-related quality of life (HRQL).15 Participants saw an improvement within the seven-week trial and then in three- and six-month follow-ups. Another study suggests that yoga can be more effective on mood than walking, which is a common recommendation for cancer patients and survivors. Yoga participants reported greater improvement in mood and a reduction in anxiety levels over the control group that only walked.16

    y4c restorative poseAnxiety causes sleep disruption. It’s estimated that between 30 percent and 90 percent of cancer survivors have problems sleeping. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology in 2013 reported that 90 percent of cancer survivors who participated in a yoga program saw improvement in their sleep; they had better sleep quality, less daytime sleepiness, better quality of life, and reduced use of medicines.17

    Some psychological principles that help us are the relaxation response, the power of positive expectations, and pranayama, breath control using the practice of various breathing techniques. The latter is a key technique for inducing relaxation in the body This is the science behind yoga that invites you to enjoy safe and relaxing positions, respect your body, settle the monkey mind, work past the normal distractions of daily life, better manage fears and anxiety, and help you make time for healing.

    Sources:

     

    Benefit #9: Yoga Enhances Body Image

     

    by Tari Prinster. Excerpt from ‘Yoga for Cancer: A Guide to Managing Side Effects, Boosting Immunity, and Improving Recovery for Cancer Survivors’.  Buy your copy today!

    People have images from news media and film of people practicing yoga. Perhaps we picture limber, lean, and youthful bodies in tights and tank tops sitting cross-legged or bent completely backwards like a human Gateway Arch in St. Louis. Celebrities and famous athletes do it. Everybody under thirty seems to be doing it. These young people might think they look like a model on the cover of Yoga Journal, and the serene look on their faces suggests that they’re not just in good physical shape, but their minds are in good shape too.

    _MG_0854I believe yoga makes us feel good from the inside out. Yoga does not just help the body get strong, flexible, and detoxified. It helps our perception of the body and improves self-esteem. Cancer survivors, especially those who have survived breast cancer, have the same desire as everyone else: to look good! And yoga is for ordinary bodies. However, when baldness is not a fashion statement and makes us look sick, or when we feel weak, have gained twenty pounds from medical treatments, or have lost body parts, feeling good about how we look seems out of reach. Encouraging survivors to find a way to feel good about their appearance may sound unrealistic.

    Rather than feel good, some survivors feel shame or embarrassment by their disfigurement. They say their body has betrayed them, as if blaming it helps explain a terrifying, mysterious disease. Survivors might also blame—falsely—their will, instead of their body, and think that they did not eat enough organic food, take enough vitamins and supplements, or use enough alternative therapies. Feelings of failure are not helpful and only add stress to life.

    Here is what I have learned. Not only has the body not betrayed us, but by thinking this way we risk just such a betrayal. Research on stress and emotion suggests how a negative attitude towards oneself causes stress hormones to rise, thus increasing risk for cancer.18 Even though research progress is being made, we know less than we should about what causes cancer. Almost always, it is not possible to identify the exact causes for an individual cancer. Rather, the best we can do is to manage risk. What we do know, though, is that having positive thoughts cannot hurt us.19

    So, a y4c yoga practice seeks to free the mind of negative thoughts and feelings about our bodies. Instead of looking into the mirror and making poor comparisons to magazine cover models, yoga teaches us how to turn the mirror around to find what is hidden on the inside. When we do something every day, even if it is a simple stretch, breathing exercise, or correcting our posture while walking down the street, we develop a healthier, more positive image of ourselves. This is how yoga starts to work and over time, will enhance your body image. By having a daily yoga practice, either alone or with others, survivors see what is good on the inside. A virtuous cycle of positive benefits results.

    Sources:DSC_0086 1 copy

    Benefit #10: Yoga Enhances Empowerment and Well-Being

     

    by Tari Prinster. Excerpt from ‘Yoga for Cancer: A Guide to Managing Side Effects, Boosting Immunity, and Improving Recovery for Cancer Survivors’. Buy your copy today!

    Many have heard of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition experienced by some soldiers returning from war, or by people suffering from a life-threatening accident. Cancer patients and survivors experience similar stress. We feel bombarded by frightening information, subjected to invasive procedures, and must endure cold clinics and blank stares.

    Not everyone though manages stress with the same success, and a 2009 study by Costanzo, Ryff, and Singer developed and tested a concept that measures how we respond to post-traumatic stress growth, the positive flip side to suffering with stress.20 The researchers categorized the elements of surviving stressful events in three ways: survival with impairment, survival with resilience, and survival by thriving. Surviving with impairment, a survivor may blame her trauma on everything wrong with life. Surviving with resilience means she may recover from the trauma and live a serviceable life. Surviving by thriving though occurs when people make the traumatic event a pivotal point in life, changing their situation by making lemonade out lemons—ultimately thriving after cancer, for instance. The thriving survivor enjoys her blissful moments, which can lead to further change and the ability to find positive ways to manage stress.

    L1080562About managing stress and cancer, Suzanne Danhauer of Wake Forest School of Medicine says, “Given the high levels of stress and distress that cancer patients experience, the opportunity to feel more peaceful and calm is a significant benefit.”21 She goes on to describe results of random trials studying the effects of yoga on emotions. Her research, conducted in 2009, found an increase of positive emotions such as calmness and a sense of purpose in over 50 percent of her subjects.

    So, a growing body of research shows that yoga provides emotional benefits. Whether we use yoga to lose weight gained by taking medication, to detox our body following chemotherapy, or to regain the use of our arms, practicing yoga helps us feel better. As these benefits become more apparent, we experience increased well-being and, more importantly, feel more empowered than before. A positive spiral toward health results; as we continue to feel better, we make even better decisions about how to bring balance and ease to our lives.

    L1080861Often, survivors with a yoga practice are surprised to find self-healing and empowerment in addition to their newfound well-being. Yoga empowers us to define life on our own terms. A solid practice can help reduce drug dependency or leave us feeling like we had a great massage. Ultimately, yoga helps us create a sense of balance between body and mind, the physical and the spiritual.

    A final point: The first obstacle to exploring the great promises of a yoga practice is accepting that things are never going to be the same—and that is okay. Learning how to practice self-compassion is the most important benefit of all, what I call the bliss benefit.

    Sources: