It is a popular thought that yoga helps your mind relax. However, yoga also has some solid benefits for patients recovering from cancer treatment or therapy. I started my yoga journey not specifically knowing about the benefits for cancer patients; when I was younger I always heard of yoga as a gentle, healing practice. I dabbled with yoga off and on growing up, but as I learned about the science-backed benefits to the practice for cancer patients and survivors, I was more dedicated than ever before.
Less fatigue and stress
Studies have shown that patients who practice yoga struggle with fatigue and stress less than those who do not practice. Experiencing fatigue from the travel to treatments, any medicine in your system, etc. is a normal side effect. Also, this fatigue goes hand in hand with an increase in stress. You are dealing with the mental, emotional, and physical effects of treatment as well as the cancer diagnosis. Yoga can give your body a much-needed break from this. Yoga increases the autonomic response which makes your body not feel the negative effects of stress.
Cancer treatment can make moving freely difficult and painful. Patients experience side effects such as joint pain, body aches, pain at injection site, and neuropathy. A regular yoga practice can help your body to stay limber and flexible when recovering from days in the hospital or being sick on the couch. Keeping the body moving is necessary to recover, since an increase in blood flow helps your body to regulate and heal.
Having trouble sleeping? Try yoga. This is true even for those not facing cancer. Studies show that yoga can help you sleep better and longer. The body needs rest in order to recover, and insomnia is another side effect that patients could be experiencing. This also relates to the benefit of less fatigue and stress; if you are less stressed, you will sleep better.
Overall mood benefits
As I mentioned above, you are facing the daunting diagnosis of cancer and dealing with the mental, emotional, and physical effects. Yoga gives you a break from thinking about treatment and turns your attention internally. When practicing yoga, you can let those other matters melt away and focus on the deep stretches and soothing mantras. As it lowers fatigue and stress, and increases the amount of sleep you are able to get, your mood improves.
Lower chance of cancer recurrence
Some articles list this benefit as a very strong reason why cancer patients should practice yoga. Yoga decreases your body fat density, and high body fat density is associated with a higher risk of cancer.
These are just a select number of the many benefits that yoga brings to cancer patients. Even though moving your body may sound like the worst thing right now as you come off the end of a treatment cycle, please do your own research to find out why this practice is so beneficial to the recovery plan of so many patients.
Also, if you are a practicing yogi, did you know that there is a special Yoga with Cancer certification? The program can be found here. It is my goal to someday complete this certification to be further enlightened on the benefits of the practice for cancer.
Resources: https://www.healthline.com/health/cancer/yoga-poses-for-cancer, https://www.thecancerspecialist.com/2020/01/31/benefits-of-yoga-for-cancer-survivors/