Yoga is an ancient form of non-aerobic exercise that includes an assortment of postures together with deep breathing and mind control. Yoga can be practiced sitting in a chair, lying in a bed or even standing in line at a movie theater.
The essential goal of the many forms of yoga is to stop the constant chatter that usually occurs in the mind. This chatter includes worrying about what we said earlier that day, anticipating what will happen later, and anything else that keeps our focus from what is occurring in the present moment. For many people, the chatter becomes more challenging when dealing with cancer and other diseases Yoga helps people cope with the chatter related to feelings such as fear and worry, as well as other body, mind, spirit challenges through the disease experience.
In addition to being able to build strength and flexibility, Yoga helps people relax, feel more peaceful, sleep better, and increase their energy level. Yoga can also help people breathe easier.
In the United States, yoga classes typically focus on the physical postures, which are only one component of a traditional yoga practice. These postures, especially when paired with breath practices and meditation practices, often create a feeling of ease. Following the traditional guidelines can lead to physical and mental benefits such as lower levels of anxiety and stress, pain relief, more flexibility and energy, and a general sense of well being.
Skills learned through yoga will also likely apply to various life domains—physical, psychological, spiritual, and social. As a result, the effects of yoga may present themselves differently for each individual.
To locate instruction and practice in your area:
- There are yoga classes specifically for people affected by cancer or other health conditions. Check with your local cancer treatment center or large hospital. Also check your local yoga centers. You can find a local center through American Yoga Association www.AmericanYogaAssociation.org . (In addition to the benefits of yoga, you may meet someone in a similar situation to yours with whom to share experiences).
- You can find a yoga teacher in your area who is qualified to teach cancer survivors and survivors of other illnesses by searching in your favorite search engine. Type in your location plus "gentle yoga" or "restorative yoga" or "yoga and Cancer" or "yoga and _______ (fill in the disease).' Before you start, speak with the teacher to let him or her know about your specific condition or health history, and your concerns. Ask about his or her education in yoga and experience with people in your situation.
- If you don't feel better after a class or session, consider looking elsewhere.
It is advisable to check with your doctor before starting yoga. Yoga postures may be hard on your body. If the doctor recommends against starting traditional yoga, consider asking if a gentler form such as Kripalu is okay.
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