Can alternative therapies, like yoga, heal illness, disease and different types of cancer? The answer depends on who you ask. Most doctors would say no, but many would recommend using yoga to compliment more conventional types of medicine. Sometimes after you have exhausted all avenues with Western medicine, alternative therapies are all that's left to explore. Even if you don't think that methods like yoga, meditation and pranayama could cure you, these practices can still be beneficial on your path to healing.
Yoga focuses on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects of the mind and body. Specific postures, controlled breathing and meditation can connect you to your heart's center. By connecting more deeply to your internal world, you can approach the external world with more clarity, patience, acceptance and empowerment. Here's how yoga can help cancer patients, or anyone coping with disease or illness.
More: 10 Reasons to Try Yoga
The Physical Practice: Asana
Yoga postures, or asana, are scientifically designed to target certain organs, muscles, nerves and glands in the body. Practicing yoga can help you become more aware of your body's capabilities, increase your range of motion, and improve flexibility and strength. Cancer symptoms, and side effects from treatments like chemotherapy, create pain and discomfort that can weaken or debilitate the body. You can relax the tension in the body and enhance the immune system by stretching and strengthening with gentle movements.
Your yoga practice doesn't have to be rigorous or painful. In fact, even on days when you feel like all you can do is show up and lie down on your mat, you should do it. You may surprise yourself and have a strong session, holding postures and breathing as deeply as you do on days when you feel energized. Each practice will be different, honor what shows up for you in the moment.
Move out of survival mode, or the fight or flight response brought on by stress and anxiety, which creates more tension. Instead, let your body thrive in a mode of relaxation and self-empowerment, which can help you heal and cope with your illness instead of resisting or running from it.