Yoga attracts the young and old alike due to its various forms and minimalist requirements. Popular for its calming effects, yoga has also become an essential routine for easing the side effects that come with cancer.
Yoga, or union in Sanskrit, combines meditation, physical postures, and breathing exercises to provide holistic mind-body therapy.
Yoga encourages self-compassion through gentle but empowering movements for individuals in palliative care due to persistent symptoms amid ongoing treatment.
When a cancer diagnosis rocks a person’s inner stability amid the cycle of tests and treatments, yoga can help patients regain a sense of balance and control.
Online cancer support communities such as the Mesothelioma Group Site acknowledge the power of yoga as a complementary treatment strategy to assist traditional cancer solutions.
Yoga has anaerobic types that do not require intense cardio moves. Thus, palliative care providers can modify exercises so that patients can perform them without straining themselves.
The moves are manageable that even those experiencing the adverse effects of treatments can practice them.
What are some yoga exercises that palliative care patients can do? What benefits do they provide? Read on to learn some of these safe yoga poses and how they can help one’s cancer survivorship.
Contrary to what some may believe, palliative care differs from hospice or end-of-life care. The goal of palliative care is to improve the cancer patient’s quality of life regardless of their cancer stage or age.
Less strenuous yoga like hatha and restorative yoga is highly advisable for cancer. Hatha involves physical postures and breathing techniques, while restorative yoga focuses on relaxation.
The following exercises are examples of safe yoga poses for cancer patients. Palliative care specialists can offer a more tailor-fit program after evaluating one’s condition.
Patients can do this exercise in a position that is most comfortable for them. While sitting up or standing straight, one must take a breath as they raise their left arm and arch over to their right side. Patients should repeat the process with their right arm.
Patients must bend their right leg from a standing position to bring their right foot to their left upper thigh (not on the knee joint), calf, or ankle. One’s arms should extend overhead like branches of a tree.
After a few seconds, patients can bring the right foot down and repeat the exercise using the left foot.
Lying on their stomachs and with hands over their shoulders, patients should lift their heads and arch their backs without overstretching or collapsing their necks.
In a tabletop position (on all fours), patients must curve their spine—bringing their stomach down—and lift their chin as they inhale for the cow position.
When patients exhale, they can shift to the cat pose by arching their back, bringing their chins to their chest, and drawing their belly button close to their spine.
Patients must kneel on the floor with some space between the bent legs to bend their entire upper body to the floor. One must extend their arms over their heads, which should also face the floor.
Then patients must “walk” their hands to the right, return to the center, left, and back to the center.
While seated on a chair, patients must grab the sides of the seat beside their hips. Then they should arch their backs and extend their necks without overstretching for a set number of seconds.
While seated on a chair, patients must lift and expand their chest and arch their back as they inhale. After holding for a few seconds, the patients should round their backs and tuck their chins forward when they exhale.
Patients must inhale as they sit up straight before gently bending their upper body toward their thighs. One should use their hands to touch the floor for support.
Yoga therapy offers the following benefits when cancer patients incorporate them into their palliative care routine:
One study on early breast cancer patients stated that mindfulness yoga could reduce anxiety, depression, and fear of relapse.
Patients who undergo chemotherapy, bone marrow transplantation, and surgery feel fatigued and have shortness of breath.
This feeling of tiredness happens due to the damage to healthy cells and cancer cells, as in the case of chemo sessions or while one’s body works to repair such damage.
Patients can also feel weak due to the common side effects of treatment, which include nausea, anemia, pain, and mood changes.
Traditional yoga poses, particularly standing sequences, strengthen the spine, leg bones, and pelvis.
Meanwhile, poses that require patients to be on their hands and knees can strengthen their arm bones. Standing and sitting tall also improves spine strength and flexibility.
Other poses involve arm movement, squats, and gentle twists that expand one’s range of motion.