Practicing Yoga Eases Side Effects of Chemotherapy

Science is just beginning to verify what yoga practitioners have known for eons, namely, that regular yoga practice positively impacts and changes your mood, body and health. Yoga has even been shown to aide cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy according to a study done at NIH. And it teaches tools to help patients reclaim their lives both on and off the mat.

Asanas, or the physical poses, are the most obvious form of yoga. Moving standing, sitting, backbends, inversions and restorative poses strengthens the body, makes it more flexible and realigns collagen to help improve daily movement. Both the range of asanas and the basic tenants of yoga are ideal for cancer patients. All poses aren’t for everyone; if a practitioner experiences pain, they should alter the pose, or stop and move into a restorative position like child’s pose. Yoga Journal provides a great look at how chemotherapy affects yoga practice. Working and breathing through the asanas helps patients put the attention into their bodies and examine areas of discomfort. Breathing into problem areas causes a release of the tension. Often medication side effects cause aches and pains but are eased through yoga. And even if a patient is loosing hair, he or she finds a renewed self respect and strength.

Breath work is often called pranayama. Students practice breathing and moving energy into discomfort. Many people undergoing cancer treatment report using breath control whenever possible, from waiting for a doctor’s prognosis to undergoing an uncomfortable procedure. One such pranayama is big belly breathing, where you expand your belly in big, long breaths. This slows your heart rate and calms you down, bringing awareness and oxygen into your body without causing excitement or anxiousness. It is a technique everyone including people with cancers such as mesothelioma should put into practice.

Of course other factors play a part, like meditation, which helps a person find their true self and center. Studies have shown that regular meditation can reduce chronic pain. The concept of ahimsa, the practice of nonviolence to oneself and others, helps cancer patients find a non-harming way of viewing their bodies, the treatment process and the medicine, which is commonly defined as poison for the cancer. In this way, yoga provides a different outlook on the world and feeling in your body. Even in your darkest days, possibly even living with a big uncertainty, like an unknown mesothelioma life expectancy, your quality of life can significantly improve with practice.

Author Bio: Jillian McKee works as the Complementary Medicine Advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. Her time is spent mostly on outreach efforts and spreading information on complementary and alternative medicine use in cancer treatment. You can contact her at and check out the Cancer Alliance at @canceralliance on Twitter and

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