Truth About Breathing: Yoga and Cancer

These are the powerful and immediate benefits of yoga designed for cancer patients: their empowerment to help themselves gain some control over anxiety, a restless mind, and the whirlwind of change that comes with a cancer diagnosis.
PUBLISHED April 23, 2015
Jean Di Carlo-Wagner, M.A., E-RYT500, yoga therapist is a 12-year colorectal cancer survivor (2003). She used yoga to help herself regain a 'new normal' and then became a yoga teacher to help other survivors. Her work is free to cancer patients at YogaBeing.net. Jean attends cancer conferences and speaks on the benefits of yoga for cancer survivors. Survivor, advocate, activist, teacher and friend.
Two recently diagnosed yoga students returned to my weekly class in San Diego. One excitedly told me that she used the breathing techniques she learned in class to help herself get through scanxiety.  The other student smiled during the introduction and said that she had never experienced her 'busy mind’ at rest and she didn’t even know that it was possible for her to let go.
 
These are the powerful and immediate benefits of yoga designed for cancer patients:  Their empowerment to help themselves gain some control over anxiety, a restless mind, and the whirlwind of change that comes with a cancer diagnosis.
 

I felt such a lack of control over myself during cancer treatment  that I began to control my environment to an unhealthy extent. Did I really want to use up my precious energy in cleaning? Didn’t being a good mother include cleaning, laundry, dinner and quality bedtime routines?  None of my usual touchstones of health were in place. And at one point, the dust balls in the corner seemed to mock and taunt me. I couldn’t keep up.
 
From my own experience of cancer, and being a caregiver to my middle sister and mother who also experienced cancer, I learned a lot of what is truly important.  Dust balls are not that important, but our minds might replay messages of ineptitude about how we are coping with cancer. My mind told me that those dust bunnies were evidence of a person who was not performing her household duties and was failing physically, emotionally, and mentally.
 
I know that my students come to yoga class to invest time in themselves and their wellness.  It is a huge effort of energy and time and I don’t take that for granted. The room is set up to be inviting, relaxing, calming and accepting. We freely hug and greet one another. We take time to talk about where we are in our life’s journey or cancer journey. We do not judge ourselves or others. We simply come to place of "being."
 
Surveying our bodies and our breath, we take inventory of what is happening right now. When we focus our energy, we begin the process of letting go of everything else.  We are not our diagnosis.  We begin to see and feel our bodies, our emotions, and our spirits.  The breath carries us within and connects us to a greater truth.
 
Here’s a way to find your truth.  Settle into your surroundings.  Draw your focus to your heart center.  Feel your heart beating.  Feel your breath moving in and out. As your focus becomes centered on your heart, let your heart open with each breath. Listen and breathe. Feel and enjoy.
 
Blessings,
Jean
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