Is yoga for me?
Despite this growth in popularity, for many it’s still seen as new-age mumbo jumbo. Others may view it as elitist, only for fit and flexible yummy mummies with time on their hands, or just too slow and too boring. It has to be said, most people that think this way have never tried it!
There are many different styles of yoga, so If you're worried about being fit or flexible enough don't be, there is a class and style of yoga that will suit you whatever your body type.
Styles such as Ashtanga or Vinyasa are considered more fast-paced flow yoga that will give you a good workout and can stretch your fitness and strength to the limit. However if you’re in recovery from cancer or undergoing chemo it’s advisable not to push yourself too much and perhaps practice one of the slower and calmer styles. Hatha and Iyengar yoga, are much better for beginners or people with an injury or medical condition such as cancer. And for those who want to focus slightly more on breathing and spirituality Kundalini may be the one to try.
Yoga with Cancer
Yoga helps people with many illnesses and conditions including cancer. Yoga can't stop or cure cancer – but it can help calm the mind so that you can cope better with the disease and various treatments. Recent research has even suggested that yoga improves immune function, reduces inflammation, and enhances the efficacy of chemotherapy and radiation.
You should also look out for classes run by a teacher with specialist training in teaching cancer patients who will know how to provide modifications of poses or sequences. There can be limits to what many cancer patients can do, especially right after surgery, or if left with physical challenges. For example, weak muscles or peripheral neuropathy which can affect balance.
But don’t be put off. Here are just some of the reasons why many cancer patients are yoga advocates:
- It stops you feeling so tired
- It helps to reduce your stress levels
- It’s a gentle way to work on your muscles and improve your core strength
- It helps your joints stay limber and flexible
- It helps you get a better nights’ sleep
- It helps to reduce your body’s fat density, which in turn helps to reduce the risk of cancer recurrence
- It helps to reduce/cope with pain
- It improves your mood and spiritual well-being
- It gets you out and about meeting new people
If you’re thinking of giving yoga a go, check with your medical team first. Here are a few tips to get started:
- Research the style of yoga that will suit you best – speak to your medical team who should be able to advise on the style of yoga you should and shouldn’t practice and if there are some recomended classes in your hospital, cancer clinic or local area.
- Make sure you choose a class at your level – if you've never tried yoga before, find a beginners' classes and if possible, a specialized teacher trained in teaching cancer patients
- Call the teacher beforehand to explain about any health issues, including cancer – if there are any poses you can’t do, they’ll adapt the exercises to suit your needs
- Classes are normally 60 to 90 minutes long and consist of a combination of stretches, yoga poses and holds, body binds, breathing and meditation techniques
- If your immune system is very low, you may want to consider booking a one-to-one session with a teacher who will be able to focus on alignment and your individual needs, rather than join a class
- You should practice at least once a week, so you gradually build your strength and flexibility
- If anything hurts, stop immediately and tell the teacher
- Wear loose-fitting comfortable clothing – tracksuit, leggings, vest top or close-fitting t-shirt
- You won’t need trainers or socks – most people practice in bare feet
- Most classes will supply an exercise mat and yoga bricks or blocks (for additional support when holding a pose) – but check with the teacher before you turn up just in case you need to take your own
- Take a sweater and a blanket so you don’t get cold if meditating
- Make sure you’re fully hydrated before you start and take a bottle of water with you
- Above all… enjoy it
Do you do Yoga? What style? And how has it helped you? Please join the Facebook Chemotherapy Support Group and share your experiences with thousands of people undergoing chemo and trying to find a way to cope manage their cancer.
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