Thursday, July 28, 2011

Yoga Introduced in Cancer Centers Across the US

Since ancient times, yoga has been used to aid healing and overall functioning of the human body, yet for many years, doctors have advised patients with cancer not to bother too much with yoga or even with physical exercise in general. However, recent studies have validated the healing power of yoga, bringing a new trend of yoga being incorporated into cancer centers across the US, including Memorial Sloan-Kettering, MD Anderson, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and many others. Yoga classes are typically held in small groups designed to address the specific needs and limitations of the participants.

The general health benefits yoga provides are numerous, though stress reduction is clearly one of the most significant for cancer patients. Stress factors for cancer victims typically includes fear of death, living with pain, having to deal with medical expenses, doctors, chemotherapy, and the list goes on. This daily stress can exacerbate the growth of tumors and make recovery difficult or impossible. Because yoga effectively reduces stress hormone levels (cortisol and cytokine), it can be very helpful in the healing and recovery process.

Improved immune system response is another key area where yoga benefits cancer victims. By increasing circulation to vital organs and tissues of the body, yoga improves both cell nourishment and waste disposal. Together with stress reduction, this can improve immune system performance a great deal.

Yoga may also benefit many cancer patients by helping to eliminate insomnia, obesity, poor digestion, constipation, loss of appetite, weakness,
fatigue, shortness of breath, and even anxiety and depression. A medical article titled, "Yoga for Cancer Patients and Survivors", by Julienne E. Bower PhD, Beth Sternlieb, Deborah Garet, MPH, and Alison Woolery, MA, states: “Nine studies conducted with cancer patients and survivors yielded modest improvements in sleep quality, mood, stress, cancer-related distress, cancer-related symptoms, and overall quality of life.”

Regarding specific postures, or "asanas", it's very important for a yoga teacher to consider the specific condition of the patient, and adjust any
routine accordingly. Kripalu yoga is often recommended specifically for cancer patients because of how gentle it is on the joints and bones. A few
gentle poses specifically recommended for many cancer victims are the cat/cow pose, supta baddha konasana, and savasana. In cases of extreme fragility, meditation may be a better option, yielding many of the same benefits as a more physically demanding yoga routine.

Correct breathing, and specific breathing techniques (known as "pranayama") are vitally important to any yoga practice. Many illnesses are caused or exacerbated by incorrect breathing. Slow, deep, yogic breathing techniques increases lung capacity and oxygen absorption, as well as helps calm the mind and reduce anxiety.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that cancer patients have made significant improvements using various types of yoga. Different levels of improvement are achieved depending on the type of cancer, what stage it is at, and the starting point at which the patient begins practicing yoga therapy. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Meditation Promotes Improved Health for Cancer Survivors

Meditation, the process of concentration that engages the mind and body to increase inner awareness, is gaining increasing popularity in western society as a healthy, natural way to achieve stress relief and a state of calm. The many benefits of meditation include better ability to manage angry thoughts, ongoing relief from muscle tension and an overall increase in feelings of optimism and wellbeing. Many people who practice regular mediation also report a greater access to their creativity and a connection to an inner source of awareness. For many regular practitioners, meditation accesses a place where intelligence and creativity can be limitless in a way that goes beyond rational thought.

The American Cancer Society reports that meditation is now being used to help patients recovering from cancer treatment, as a means of improving their overall quality of life. A control group study that worked with ninety cancer patients over a seven-week period found that over 30 % of the patients who meditated experienced a significant reduction in mood problems and stress symptoms. The experience of meditation also seemed to positively influence the outcome in patients who were being actively treated for cancer.

The Meditation Society of America is another group that is acknowledging meditation as a powerful tool in healing. Health problems and medical treatments for cancer, which include radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, have been found to be much more effective in patients who are able to relax and release negative thoughts and tension.

The benefits of meditation for cancer survivors involve an overall psychic change in the way illness is viewed. Whether a patient is recovering from, a mind-set that focuses on worry, fear and anger, will increase adrenaline and interfere with the healing process. Meditation, however, is found to release endorphins in the system which not only heightens a sense of well being, but promotes healing—a huge boost for survivors. The calming effect positive visualization brings on during meditation is immensely powerful.

Along with the benefit to the immune system is the link to overall healthy living. Staying in a meditative state can bring a focus onto healthier ways of living, including making positive changes in one’s diet and a pledge to exercise more. All these behavioral changes are side benefits of meditation that can enhance a survivor’s health. This ancient art, practiced with intention, is a powerful aid in the cancer survivor’s recovery from illness. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Trade Your Yoga Mat For A Swimsuit

My recent obsession is learning how to Stand Up Paddle Surf (SUP). Originating in the Hawaiian Islands in the 1960’s paddle boarding has just recently made its way to the mainland. No waves needed, you can paddle on lakes, rivers, oceans or harbors. There are rental places popping up all around me offering lessons and paddleboard (which look like oversized surfboards) rentals. I’m dying to give this workout a try.

What really caught my interest and made me want to try this new sport out even more, was reading an article in The Seattle Times yesterday; In Seattle, floating yoga on a paddleboard. Now this sounded crazy, yet tempting. Personal trainer Vicki Wilson teaches a class made up of about a dozen women that engage in a series of asanas on the Puget Sound. Very different from the in-studio feel, the class is surrounded by enormous freight ships, train chugs and seagulls. Despite these distractions, the serene waters of the sound create harmony and ease during this practice. 

Finding your footing and balance on the mat is one thing, but the waves and movement of the water create extra challenge for not only the body but also the mind. I’m sure poses on the board lend themselves to increased core strength balance. The mind is now confronted with new distractions to block out and anxiety about falling off the board.

Seattle is not the only place holding paddleboard yoga; classes are popping up in Florida, California, Hawaii and Washington. This is just another example of the reinvention of yoga and the hybrid of two therapeutic calming hobbies. 

It's About Time

Welcome to Center Yourself, glad you stopped by! This is my very first attempt at a blog. I’m an active writer, yogi, foodie and outdoor enthusiast. I’ll be sharing all of the above here for my readers. The name of the blog came from the importance of quieting your mind, centering your thoughts and replacing negetive thoughts with positive thoughts. I look forward to using this space to share my thoughts passions and interest with you all. Enjoy:)