Stress is a large contributor to disease.
Because of the extremes chemotherapy and radiation place on the body, including nausea, pain, and general discomfort, some patients find that regular exercise leaves them feeling weakened rather than renewed. Restorative yoga restores and renews the body’s natural energy, boosts the immune system, produces a sense of well-being, and gently improves range of motion without stressing the muscles. Deep, relaxing breathing that accompanies the poses increases blood flow, balances the glands, and enhances the lymphatic flow in the body, all of which assist the body’s internal purification processes and increases oxygen-rich blood flow to the cells.
Working with cancer patients, I focus on meditation techniques and deep breathing as well as poses fully supported with props to help ease nausea and reduce insomnia, joint pain, and other side effects that come with treatment. We can incorporate carefully selected *essential oils that promote relaxation and peace, if requested, along with meditative breath work, gentle flowing moon salutations, and even yoga nidra for a multi-sensory experience to foster a deep connection between mind and body and support the body’s healing functions.
The benefit (and sometimes difficulty) of restorative yoga is the stillness that comes with it. In this stillness, practitioners have permission and space to truly let go, learn to accept their body, and develop ways to cope with the stress and anxiety of their disease. Being still, however, also allows for many thoughts to bubble up to the surface. By acknowledging these thoughts, practitioners can slowly begin to let go.
Ultimately, restorative yoga aims to improve quality of life, both mentally and physically. It allows you to achieve a quieting of the mind and to notice subtle shifts and variations in the body at that moment. Restorative yoga will continue to restore your energy and calm your mind long after you have left your mat.
- Clinical trials studying the efficacy of a yoga program for patients with breast cancer as an adjuvant therapy: http://clinicaltrials.gov/show/NCT00508794
- Yoga Reduces Stress: http://newsroom.ucla.edu/portal/ucla/yoga-reduces-stress-now-it-s-known-236785.aspx
- Yoga Eases High Blood Pressure http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/news/20130515/yoga-may-help-ease-high-blood-pressure-study-finds
- Yoga Improves Sleep, Quality of Life for Cancer Survivors: http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/story/index.cfm?id=2866
- Physical Activity and the Cancer Patient: http://www.cancer.org/treatment/survivorshipduringandaftertreatment/stayingactive/physical-activity-and-the-cancer-patient
*Why essential oils? Essential oils create “scent-memory.” Do you know how music can make us instantly recall a specific feeling or emotion, even (especially!) from our youth? Aroma works similarly. This is because the olfactory system is the only sensory system that involves the amygdala and the limbic system in its primary processing pathway. Smells are often linked to specific memories. For example, if you have had a positive experience with gingerbread cookies that your mother baked when you were a child, the scent of ginger may promote positive thoughts. When you have a positive experience with an essential oil, you can help yourself find that relaxed state again, later, using the corresponding oil.