The Breath Practice: Pranayama
The physical practice would not be beneficial without the breath. Each posture is married with breath, allowing oxygen and prana, or life-force energy, to move through the body. Pranayama, or controlled breathing, forces you to focus on inhalation, exhalation and breath retention. Yoga teaches you to breathe slowly and deeply in rhythmic patterns instead of the quick, shallow breaths that are brought on by stress. You can practice this while moving through the physical postures, or you can do a seated-breath practice.
The breath moves through the pathways of the body and strengthens the respiratory system, calms the nervous system, and boosts functionality in the body. Prana, carried by the breath, cleanses the body and sustains life by bringing more oxygen to the blood stream and eliminating toxins. Cancer patients who experience decreased energy, depression, pain and weakness can use pranayama to dissolve stress and emotional imbalance and stimulate energetic strength and vitality. Connecting to the breath unites you with your prana and your natural healing abilities. By getting in touch with your body and breath, you build confidence in your ability to self-heal and learn new ways to respond and work with your disease.
The Mental Practice: Meditation
The mind can be your best friend or worst enemy depending on how you choose to process information. Asana distracts the mind, and controlled breathing slows it down, bringing you into the present moment. When you stay present, you cultivate your focus and concentration; this puts you in a state of quiet meditation. You can meditate while in motion, seated or lying down.
When you meditate, you bring yourself into the present moment; the mind is still and stress and anxiety subside. The disruptive, negative mental chatterbox that fills your mind with worry, anxiety, fear and doubt is no longer the driving force. Meditation can help you experience mental clarity, peace, love and joy. Stress or negative emotions may still come up, but you can learn to choose the thoughts and feelings that promote healing.
You can use visualization along with controlled breathing and meditation. This is especially helpful if you're newer to the practice and require additional assistance to direct your attention inward. These methods can help you shift your thinking away from anxiety and help you focus on more positive feelings, activities and ways to spend your time. When you experience peace and clarity, you're able to make positive choices and better decisions in your life.
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