5 Ways Yoga Helps Cancer Survivors

Research has shown that many cancer survivors benefit from practicing yoga during and after cancer treatment. Yoga not only reduces the severity of cancer treatment side effects but also improves energy, sleep, mood and coping.


Below are five ways yoga helps cancer survivors:


1. Yoga reduces stress.

Cancer is stressful, but a 2014 review on the effectiveness of complementary health in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute showed yoga as one of the recommendations for anxiety and stress reduction. Whether you're engaging in yoga's slow, gentle movements linked with breath or another form of the practice, yoga helps you relax and promotes healing through increased blood flow.


2. Yoga improves sleep, stamina and more.

On the medical side, practicing yoga regularly can lead to improved sleep, increased immunity, decreased pain, normalized endocrine function, increased musculoskeletal flexibility and strength, decreased blood pressure, greater stamina, and so much more. In one study, yoga participants undergoing cancer treatment reported improved sleep, fatigue and quality of life while the control group reported worsened outcomes.


3. Yoga is a gentle form of exercise.

Forget the notion that all yoga is pretzel, bendy and difficult poses. When approached therapeutically, yoga is a safe, easy and gentle exercise that is designed to meet your physical and psychosocial needs. You can even do it in a chair. While yoga postures and movements can benefit cancer patients by increasing range of motion, flexibility and blood flow and reducing neuropathy and lymphedema, many subtle yoga practices like breathing exercises, deep relaxation and meditation are just as beneficial.


4. Yoga promotes natural self-healing.

Yoga is a natural mind/body approach for healing that shifts the focus from pharmaceuticals, surgical procedures and other invasive treatments. The word "yoga" means union. It is meant to unite mind, body and spirit. Forgiveness, acceptance, fulfillment, a sense of meaning, a lessening of suffering (all areas that a yoga therapist helps to cultivate) are all vital to health and well-being. In a culture in which we are constantly rushing from one day to the next often trying to change our health, body or emotions or plan the future, yoga opens up the possibility of connecting to what we already have and who we already are.


5. Yoga helps you gain control.

When you are diagnosed with cancer, you are immediately thrown into a world of treatments, appointments, decisions and more. Your schedule is no longer yours. Yoga can help you regain control in your life by giving you tools that will relieve anxiety, depression, pain, fatigue and other physical issues. These tools, which you can use at home, include relaxation and breathing exercises and guided imagery.


Join a yoga class today. The Christ Hospital Health Network offers free chair yoga classes every Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. in the Cancer Center's activity room. Classes include gentle movements to help alleviate tension and stress and might include standing poses using the support of the chair to build strength, breath awareness and meditation.

Patients at The Christ Hospital Cancer Center also have access to individual yoga therapy services provided by Tina Walter, an oncology-trained yoga therapist. Individual yoga therapy is available weekly through appointment. For more information, please call 513-585-2023.