Why you should do Yoga if you’re a cancer patient

By guest writer Liz Davies

Sleep disturbances and fatigue are two of the most common long-term side effects experienced by people after cancer treatment. These side-effects are caused by various things but anxiety is a clear source. Yoga provides the emotional health benefit of reduction in anxiety which gives cancer patients the ability to help themselves get rid of these two symptoms.

Yoga practitioners are accustomed to clearing their minds and placing themselves in the moment. Taking a long, deep breath, feeling every part of your body and completely emptying your mind is something that yoga practioners aspire to do on a regular basis. If cancer patients are able to do this with the help of yoga, their focus can shift from disease to health.

The majority of research regarding cancer and yoga is focused primarily on patients with breast cancer; however, recent research has begun to focus on all types of cancer patients, including rare types such as epithelial mesothelioma. The results have been nothing but positive. Yoga has proven to create improvements in mood, sleep quality, stress, cancer-related symptoms, cancer-related distress, and overall quality of life.

Here are a few easy ideas to start with:

Alternate nostril breathing is a good way to reduce anxiety and is very simple. Just close one nostril using a finger and then breath out of only the other nostril. There is no special effort to breath, just allow your mind to come naturally to the breath as you breath in through one nostril and then out through the other. The full sequence is: inhale left and exhale right. Pause. Inhale right and exhale left.

The savsana pose is especially effective for full relaxation. The key to this pose is to be absolutely comfortable and to feel that you could lie quietly without strain for a long time. Being able to lie quietly and comfortably is more important than the exact pose.

Try lying on your back with your legs slightly apart and your arm slightly away from your body with palm upward. If your gaze point is above your head, it is an indication that your head is tilted backwards. A blanket under your head will help bring your head back into a neutral relationship with the rest of your spine. Other props to aid comfort are a blanket under your knees and / or blankets under your wrists. If it is not possible to perform this pose on the ground, feel free to try this on a couch or bed where you are comfortable. If this still feels uncomfortable, try lying on your side or on your front.

This pose combined with the right breathing is sure to cause relaxation.

Liz Davies is a recent college graduate and aspiring writer especially interested in health and wellness. She became particularly interested in ways cancer patients can cope with the side-effects of their treatment after her mother became an oncology nurse for lung cancer.

Useful links:

Sleep disturbances and fatigue

Breast Cancer

Epithelial mesothelioma


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© Kevin Saunders, Yogaground 2011

One Response to “Why you should do Yoga if you’re a cancer patient”

  1. yoga london says:

    Agreed. I find yoga is almost like pressing ‘an emotional reset button’ for both my mind and body. And nothing comes close in making me feel calm. (Great tips on the alternate nostril breathing too – greatly appreciated, thanks)