Yoga is an holistic system for bringing about balance and harmony on all levels: body, mind, emotions and spirit. When this balance has been disturbed by serious illness, practising yoga can help in a number of ways to restore it. Yoga practice encourages the development of the inner resources that help in dealing with a life-changing illness, and the unfolding of the qualities of self-awareness, resilience, stability, faith and trust that enable us to meet all of life’s challenges and to use them as opportunities for growth and change.
How can yoga help people who are living with cancer?
Cancer is a broad complex of illnesses in which a weakened immune system cannot cope with the proliferation of damaged cells. Yoga can help in various ways to strengthen the immune system and encourage our inner healing forces.
o Relaxation calms and balances the nervous system and alleviates the anxiety and stress which depress immune functioning and hinder healing.
o Breathing exercises improve respiration, relieve tension and restore balance and calm.
o Meditation develops the detachment and clarity that enable us to acknowledge and accept the realities of cancer and to manage our fears and worries.
o Physical postures increase energy levels, help to remove toxic waste and enhance the functioning of our internal organs and systems.
The simplest of yoga breathing, movement, relaxation and meditation techniques will help us to deal with the powerful emotions that can come with the diagnosis of a life-changing illness. They can also help to manage the stress, anxiety and pain of cancer surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Yoga offers a range of practical tools with which you can help yourself and mobilise your own inner resources. Here is some information about the simple, effective, empowering, nurturing techniques that are employed in my yoga class.
Relaxation is a vital element in healing: it gives release from the muscular and mental tension and stress that are so detrimental to the immune system, slows and calms breathing and lowers heart rate and blood pressure. As body and mind let go, tension and anxiety give way to comfort, stillness and peace of mind. This quieter mental and emotional state is conducive to the repair of cells. In relaxation we actively co-operate with our immune system and encourage our inner healing forces to work for us.
Breathing exercises contribute to the optimal functioning of our vital organs and to our general health. On the physical level, the simple breathing and stretching exercises of yoga improve the elasticity and efficiency of the diaphragm and intercostal muscles and help us to develop more efficient breathing habits. Rhythmic balanced breathing calms the sympathetic nervous system and restores emotional calm and balance. Tension and stress are relieved and energy is replenished. Just a few minutes’ daily practice will be calming, uplifting and revitalising.
Our breath is closely linked with our emotional state. When we are anxious or angry, frightened or in pain, our breathing becomes shallow, erratic, disturbed. But the reverse is also true: we can consciously use the breath to help manage anxiety, fear and pain. Through yoga we become more aware of our breath and with this awareness and with the help of some simple exercises, habitual, inefficient breathing patterns can be transformed into healthier, life-enhancing ones. The breath is a powerful healing force and we can use it to help ourselves at all times and in all situations.
Meditation allows our thoughts and emotions to surface to that we can look at them. The simple meditation practice of breath awareness develops the mental focus, detachment and clarity that help us to look at the reality of our situation: to see things as they are. Then we can acknowledge and accept them, work with them as necessary and move on. Repressing emotions traps energy and increases stress; acknowledging and accepting them liberates energy and reduces stress. Meditation allows our buried emotions to surface and become integrated into consciousness, so it is therapeutic and healing in the fullest sense.
Yoga postures influence our breathing, circulation, digestion and elimination; our mental and emotional balance; our nervous system and our energy levels; and the way we hold and use our bodies. They improve flexibility, strength and stamina and enhance the functioning of the internal organs and systems. In the class, you will learn a range of simple practices specifically designed to help speed the removal of toxic waste and improve circulation and energy flow. If you haven’t exercised for years and are a bit creaky, please do not worry – the exercises are suitable for everyone.
I like to ensure that the practices that you will do in my class you will be able to take away with you and use them at home. This continues the link between class and the home life – as it is important that you can utilise these new found skills to assist you in dealing with what can at times be overwhelming emotions, highs and lows. We are adding to your yogic tool box those items that will help you through these times.
Please feel free to contact me should you wish to discuss how yoga can help you.
Yoga for People Living with Cancer
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