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Benefits of Yoga for Cancer Patients

Happy May 1st! I've always liked May, with all the flowers, it represents new beginnings and new life. It's a a rough road we travel for sure, but May can lift our spirits with the promise of warm sunny days, vacations, and summer fun. Soon we'll be grumbling about the heat. That's human nature I guess. The Bible tells of the Israelite grumbling as they were being led by Moses (and God) through the wilderness. "How long will this wicked community grumble against me? I have heard the complaints of these grumbling Isrealites....."Numbers 14: 27. We are a grumbling society as well. Still some of the happiest women I've met are those who have had the most struggle.

I'm referring to my many friends who have suffered under the weight of cancer. The most cheerful woman I ever met had been through it for many years at a young age, with 3 bouts of chemotherapy. Each time her hair returned a different color than before. When I met her she was a strawberry blond. She had a wonderful outlook on life. Infact, it was her comment that spurred me on the road to full time fitness, especially, personal training. I was teaching group fitness at the time, but wanted to personal train. In her usual kind, upbeat, demeanor she said to me, "you talk about it all the time, why don't you just do it?" .... I realized she was right. So I did it. Here I am all these years later, still training and now coaching, (and yes there is a huge difference).

She was the first of many, many, friends, aquaintences, and clients that I've had the pleasure of knowing, who sadly faced cancer as a part of their new normal. The common thread was their beautiful outlook on life. We all can learn a lesson from these sweet women.

Recently I shared the benefits of yoga at the John Marsh Cancer Center, Hagerstown, Md. As usual, when I do these presentations, I had a wonderful time. The group, including their care givers and the group leaders, all enjoyed the session as we shared in some gentle yoga.

Each one shared and the most common comment was how much they felt the easing of stress coming into their body as they focused on their breathing and brought their minds to center on the breath, leaving the thoughts of the day behind.

Yoga, practiced consistently and regularly can lower cortisol levels. This is important to the survival rate as you'll see in the article below. The patient participating in yoga will see that her energy level has increased. Flexible joints require less energy to move through range of motion. Strong muscles as well increase our energy levels. Yoga can serve as the cancer patients workout, since workouts that jar the body may be too demanding and injurious.

The stress leaving their body comes from the maintaining of focus on our breathing. This not only centers our mind, the breath brings fresher air into the body, awakening and reviving us. Overtime our practice allows us to breath deeper and more efficiently which also adds to our energy levels.

Sleep is so important to the reduction of pain, and as noted again in the article below, may even play a role in the survival rate. The practice of deep breathing, the expending of energy in a mild, yet muscle challenging, way on a consistent schedule, will become the workout that cancer patients need. It's gentle, yet powerful, and will help to bring sleep, that lasts through the night. Sleep restores our body, so we are in less pain, and being in less pain, allows for more energy for daily living, which inturn also alters our mood.

A brighter disposition allows for better sleep and healing. This can be a vicous cycle for anyone in pain and the consistent practice of yoga may relieve that pain while at the same time adding to one's ability to fall asleep, and stay asleep.

Let me add here that hydration is also a very important component to sleeping well. Being dehydrated can be one reason we find ourselves awake at night. Who knew, right.    

There is so much more information in the article below. I hope you'll read on. Remember, yoga should be done with a qualified practiioner. There are important components to a good session, that will bring balance to your body, prevent injury, and allow for healing. Find a good class or practice privately with a trainer/instructor, so that you allow for your individual needs. Always remember that you are the owner of your body, you know it best. Take your time, acclimate to the class and move at your pace. You know what is best for you.

A good class, will depend on the instructors experience, and training. Her ability to serve an entire class of many individuals all with different needs, will be key. Avoid classes that impose more twisted positioning, or rigorous movements. Find a gentle, yet strengthening yoga class. Always inform your instructor of your condition and needs. She may ask, and often participants don't share. It is important that you share. She/he can tweak the class, and keep the level best for all participants, but she/he needs to know up front.

Yoga, Healing, and Christian Faith

For those of us who want the added healing of the living Word of God, check out my own Salute To The Son Meditation and Movement. We know that the scriptures bring life. Psalms 107:20 tells us He sent forth His Word and healed them. We can find healing in the word of God when we add it to our daily life as a form of meditation. We all meditate. Allowing our thoughts to run random and willy nilly through our brain can bring upheaval and chaos to our life. Focusing our mind, centering our thoughts on the living word of God brings healing and life. What better way than to add it to the disciplines of the body? What better way to be 'mindful' than to bring our faith and fitness together. Salute to The Son Movement and Meditation is a practice I've kept for myself for too long. Watch for more opportunities to participate as I post on Facebook and my site .

Find healing from the living word of God, find energy and vitality. Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." This focus will bring us closer to healing. It's more than prayer. It's a practice of putting the Word, in our minds, in our hearts, and in our mouths, daily. As a man thinketh, so is he. Think on things that are lovely and of good report, things that are true and praiseworthy. Philipians 4:8 God know what grumblers we are. God knew how we allow our minds to bring us to ruin. His thoughts, and our don't mix so we need to bring our focus on his healing word. That's what Salute To The Son Movement and Meditation will do. It offers a wonderful alternative for the Christian woman. More will be said on that in later posts along with more opportunities to participate in the weeks ahead.

Now, here you go. A succint article sharing the benefits of yoga for the cancer patient. Happy May!


Benefits of Yoga for Cancer Patients

By Lynne Eldridge, MD | Medically reviewed by a board-certified physician

Yoga for cancer patients is now offered at many cancer centers as well as community organizations. What are the benefits of yoga for cancer, are there any precautions you should take, and how can you get started?

What Is Yoga?

A 5,000-year-old practice based on Indian philosophy, yoga has gained popularity in the United States in recent years. Yoga uses a combination of postures, rhythmic breathing, and meditation, and is said to contribute to our physical and mental well-being. Derived from the Sanskrit word "Yuj," yoga stands for the union or joining together of body, mind, and spirit. Yoga is not considered a religious practice, but rather a philosophy of creating an internal environment that promotes health and vitality.

There are many types of yoga, but hatha yoga is the form of yoga most often referred to when people use the word yoga. With its slow, gentle movements, the practice of yoga may be possible for people who are otherwise limited in their activities due to fatigue, shortness of breath, and other symptoms of cancer and cancer treatment.

Yoga for Cancer Survivors

Yoga can help you center your thoughts and maintain flexibility but also has benefits specifically for people living with cancer. Symptoms of fatigue, insomnia, and pain can all lower your quality of life with cancer. In recent years the use of yoga has been evaluated in many studies looking at cancer symptoms. Some of the benefits that have been supported by at least a study or two includes:

Sleep and Insomnia: Yoga may help people with cancer who have difficulty falling asleep or remaining asleep. This is more important than it may sound, as we've learned that insomnia in cancer patients can be dangerous — not only by increasing fatigue and lessening the quality of life, but may even play a role in survival.

Fatigue: In a few studies, yoga was associated with a significant decrease in the fatigue related to cancer and cancer treatments. This is also incredibly important, as the majority of people with cancer suffer from cancer-related fatigue.

Anxiety: Through its centering activities and breathing practices, yoga may reduce the anxiety associated with cancer.

Loss of Appetite: In some cases, yoga may result in an improvement when loss of appetite accompanies a cancer diagnosis.

Pain: As a complementary treatment — that is, a treatment that is used along with conventional treatments such as pain medications — yoga may decrease pain associated with cancer.

Stress: Yoga appears to have a role in stress reduction for people living with cancer, both clinically — meaning that people have said they feel less stressed — and as seen in markers of stress in the body. In a few small studies, yoga lowered blood cortisol levels in patients with breast cancer. Cortisol is a hormone that is secreted during stress and may play a role in the progression of cancer.

Emotional Distress: Individuals living with cancer reported significantly less emotional distress related to their disease when they incorporated yoga into their weekly routine.

Physical Benefits: Yoga can help improve flexibility, strength, muscle tone, and balance; all of which may be compromised when you undergo surgery or prolonged bed rest due to cancer treatments.

Possible Survival Benefit: An association based on a few studies suggests a possible survival benefit, at least for some people, associated with yoga. An older study found that women with metastatic breast cancer who had a flattened cortisol curve (cortisol is a "stress hormone") had lower survival rates. In most people, cortisol levels are highest in the morning, with levels decreasing through the day. A randomized controlled study was done looking at women with stage 0 to stage 3 levels measuring cortisol levels. The group who practiced yoga 3 times a week for 60 minutes (either in a group or one-on-one with an instructor) had a steeper decline in cortisol levels through the day than the control group who did not have yoga instruction. Since a steeper decline (less flattening) of the cortisol curve was noted in women participating in yoga, it could be that yoga is associated with improved survival with breast cancer.

It is important to note that these benefits of yoga relate to improvement in the symptoms of cancer and are not considered a “treatment” for cancer. In this context, yoga is usually used in an “integrative” fashion, meaning that alternative methods such as yoga are offered to help an individual cope with symptoms, while traditional medical practices such as surgery and chemotherapy are used to treat cancer itself.


As with any activity, it is important to talk with your oncologist before beginning yoga. Some yoga positions may cause strain on ligaments and joints that could be detrimental to some people living with cancer.


Kim Nadine Hall

Salute To The Son…Meditation and Movement

for health and wellness for the Christian Woman

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The practice of speaking God’s words out loud speaks to our spirit, restoring our souls which in turn, heals our body.

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