Cancer. A horrendous disease. A change of life. More than 10 million Americans today are survivors of cancer and more than a million new cases are diagnosed each year, according to The National Cancer Institute.
The New York Times reported that yoga is offered as therapy in 93 percent of 755 integrative medical centers across the nation. Physicians are utilizing yoga therapy as an adjunct practice to modern medicine. Mind-body yoga approaches are increasingly being used in cancer treatment. “Yoga of Awareness for Cancer” has been shown in research studies at Duke University Medical Center to help decrease negative symptoms and increase stability amid life’s ever changing circumstances when it is rife with cancer. Evidence increasingly suggests that holistic treatment programs help improve cancer survivors overall quality of life.
Knowing this, I completed a professional training at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, North Carolina last summer. The program, Yoga of Awareness for Cancer, was initiated and directed by Jim and Kimberly Carson who trained participants through dynamic discussions, the teaching of innovative yoga skills and lectures by Duke medical experts in oncology, psychiatry, behavioral science and physical therapy. As an adjunct part of the professional training, we were requested to teach an introductory program in an oncology setting. I offered a two-hour session entitled “Riding the Waves” to cancer survivors at The Gathering Place, a facility whose mission is, “ to support, educate and empower individuals and families touched by cancer through programs and services provided free of charge.”
This innovative program conveyed essential elements of the ancient tradition of yoga in a context of modern, evidence–based medicine. The main purpose of the program is to help decrease pain, fatigue, insomnia, stress, and negative emotional feelings. Pranayama (breath work), asanas/poses, mindfulness meditation, visualizations, and group discussion were utilized. My two-hour program was attended by seven cancer survivors and began with a power point presentation prior to yoga instruction and mindfulness training. Finally, there was a discussion which reviewed the components of the program; awareness, acceptance, love, relaxation, and empowerment.
Through the introductory program it was hoped that participants would begin to live mindfully, and healthfully by discovering their physical and mental equilibrium. Testimonials were positive and encouraged the program to be offered again, as a four to six week workshop where survivors have the support to heal in many different ways.
If you or someone you know suffers from cancer, here are some great references that address yoga for cancer survivors in a therapeutic setting:
Yoga-Reach – offers a cancer survivor program
Yoga Bear is a national 501(c) 3 non-profit organization dedicated to promoting more opportunities for wellness and healing to the cancer community through the practice of yoga.
- List of Active Yoga Clinical Trials for Cancer, Stress, Fatigue and More
- Clinical Trials/Studies of Yoga to treat Cancer, Stress, Depression and More
- About the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Survivors Network (CSN)
- Book On Cancer, Patients, Survivors. Biography of Cancer By Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD
- Yoga Nidra for Insomnia (Baba Ramdev’s Video, Yoga Poses and Clinical Trials)