Cancer survivors are looking for ways to improve their quality of life, even five years after diagnosis.
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.
Even if I wasn’t looking, I couldn’t miss all the articles on yoga for cancer survivors. Even the Wall Street Journal reported on yoga’s benefits for cancer survivors. The International Journal of Yoga Therapists devoted a whole magazine on the topic and the challenges of coordinating this growing field in yoga.
(National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship) defines a cancer survivor as a person who has been diagnosed with cancer from the day of diagnosis to the end of their life. There are 12 million of us in the U.S. alone. What got my attention were the follow-up questionnaires of survivors showing that long-term cancer patients felt they needed information about how to improve the quality of their lives.
If there’s one thing that stands out among the research on the benefits of yoga for cancer patients, it is the self-reporting claims of cancer survivors which state improved quality of life. Self-reporting is a softer scientific tool than drawing blood and seeing the reduction of cortisol, a stress hormone, implicated in the exacerbation of many diseases, including cancer. Research has shown
that yoga has an immediate and prolonged effect to improve not only the quality of life by self-reporting, but physiological changes that prove the benefits of yoga.
What kind of yoga? Now there’s a loaded question.
A growing body of research is pointing cancer survivors to yoga classes which focus on relaxation, gentle movements and breathing to improve quality of life. From my own recovery and use of yoga, moving slowly, regaining strength in my diaphragm and surrounding musculature took an entire year.
There is not one answer, because we are individuals who experience our own journey through cancer. We come in different ages, sizes, exercise histories and health histories. The common denominator for me is the stress one is put under from the moment we’re diagnosed until the day we die. We know we are different and some of us deal with that better than others. Some of us have cancer which remits, recurs, shows up years later or never goes away completely.
Stress is the common denominator. The long-term effects of stress on our bodies is well-documented. It can cause a whole host of secondary problems, like depression, fatigue, sleeplessness, heart problems, gut issues, weight gain or loss. Yoga has the most power in its tools to gain mastery over breathing tensely and inefficiently, which send “alarm” signals to our brains.
Let’s use our visualization skills to ease some stress. Make sure you’re comfortable. Put your feet on the ground and take a moment to feel the bottom of your feet. Breathe into the bottom of your feet. Draw your attention to your breathing. Breathe into your whole body, and you might even feel as though there’s more room between your teeth. Now bring to mind shapes of clouds. See the clouds in your mind’s eye. Follow them with your inner awareness. See their shapes form and change. Notice the color of the sky and the clouds. Keep watching the show as you take a moment to close your eyes.
Find yoga tips and free downloadable yoga classes and meditations at YogaBeing.net.