Yoga for Those Affected by Cancer by Vicky Fox

In this feature specialist teacher Vicky Fox tells us about how beneficial yoga can be for those affected by cancer and how it can help us in our return to happiness.


When you first heard the words “you have cancer” your body and mind would have had an immediate response. You may have even held your breath for a moment or started to breath erratically. Your body and mind would have gone into survival mode and changes would quickly happen to help you survive this attack.

In fact you probably already had been feeling these “stressful” symptons ever since you had a niggling worry about your health and went to get something checked. Perceived stress is the same as actual stress and stress changes the type of chemicals released by the body. The mind and the body are not seperate. When we have feelings, emotions, thoughts we release neuropeptides. Positive neuropeptides such as serotonin, dopamine and relaxin have a positive and healthy effect on your body. We all know how great it feels when you wake up in the morning and they sky is blue and the sun is shining , you have positive thoughts about the day and this in return makes you feel good. There is a saying that “happy people live longer”.

When we stressed we release cortisol, epinephrine and adrenaline. Every cell in our body has the ability to produce and receive these neuropeptides.

We now know that stress weakens our immune system. We know that releasing stress helps strengthen it. The Yoga For Living with Cancer classes give you some tools to help with the stress of your cancer diagnosis and treatment. Some are simple breathing techniques that can be used anytime and anywhere and some are movement based poses that you can do to help reduce symptons of fatigue, nausea or other physical side effects.

You are actually your best teacher as you know what it feels like to be in your body. This may change from day to day, moment to moment. Yoga is an individual practice. Take time to notice how your feel. How a yoga pose makes you feel so that you can have the best practice possible. Your body talks to you in subtle sensations so observe these sensations and notice how it feels. If you find you can no longer breathe smoothly or something feels uncomfortable or painful then you need to come out of a pose a bit or completely.

The classes at Notting Hill are small and therefore can be tailored to suit the needs of everyone in the class, you can work with what feels right for you on each individual day. Some days you may be full of energy and looking for something to help you build strength and improve your flexibility. Other days you may feel exhausted or depleted of energy and need something more restorative. You may even have side effects of treatment and may want to detoxify or aid your digestive system.

This is incredibly empowering. Taking control of your life. Learning tools to help you feel better. Breathing helps you calm the mind and lower feelings of stress and Movement helps to keep the body in balance strengthening muscles and bones. Yoga moves the body and the spine in many directions twisting, side bending, forward bending, opening up the front of the body (back bending) expanding and contracting.

Yoga views the body as a whole. Interconnected. Treatment for cancer such as surgery, chemotheraphy and radiation focuses on a particular area or type of cells. This creates an imbalance throughout the body and yoga can help readdress that balance. It supports the whole body and as the body and mind are connect it also helps to soothe the mind too. It can reduce anxiety and create feelings (even if for a few moments) of calm.

“The purpose of our lives is to be happy.”
Dalai Lama

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