Print Print Comment Comment Add to Favorites
Log in to save to My Yoga Journal!
Add to Favorites
Bookmark Bookmark

Yoga for Cancer

While it's not a cure for cancer, yoga enhances physical and emotional wellness—and brings a peace many patients had thought they'd lost forever.

By Sandy Boucher

Ann has been living with illness for a year, undergoing intensive radiation and chemotherapy treatments for Stage IIIB breast cancer, knowing the statistics give her only a 40 percent chance of surviving the next five years. Extremely thin, her hair just barely growing back, she says she does many complementary therapies in support of standard medical procedures.

Ann had been doing yoga for 20 years, most recently in a class in Santa Cruz, California, led by Teri Mehegan. But when she began the radical radiation and chemotherapy treatments, her strength declined so much that "sometimes I had to drag myself into the yoga class and just lie on the floor. Teri knew what was happening with me and always greeted me with a big hug and a few loving words. Sometimes, she would acknowledge me verbally during class by saying, 'You may not want to do this, Ann,' or 'You might want to do the posture this way, Ann.' When she came around to adjust people, she might pat me or help me get into an easier position. Then as each class progressed and I did the postures, it was amazing how strong I would feel. During the rest of my day, I could barely stand up, barely walk, but I would be able to hold the Triangle Pose, for instance, for as long as everyone else! The only way I can explain that is that yoga awakened my energy, and maybe I was getting energy from the other people there too." Yoga, she adds, "was a very important part of my healing."

"How do you think the healing occurs?" I ask.

Ann pauses for a moment, then says, "It happens on three levels. On the physical, the yoga gives me increased energy; on the psychological level, I always feel acknowledged and even cherished, mostly by the instructor but also by the other students; and spiritually, it gives me a time to reflect, to go inside." Ann describes the inward, quiet time at the end of the session—when the students lie still and Teri leads them in a short meditation—as invaluable.

My own experience echoes Ann's. When I was most ill and depleted from chemotherapy treatments, I attended a body-movement class. Always, no matter how terrible I had felt upon entering the session, I would leave feeling centered and energized. I began to believe that no matter how sick we may be—in pain, nauseated, exhausted, diseased—there is within us a healthy body or a healthy being. For many cancer patients, yoga offers techniques that allow us to support and awaken this vital part of ourselves.

A Skeptic Signs On

Many medical doctors tend to dismiss the beneficial effects of yoga and meditation, opting to stay within the safe though limited enclave of conventional medical practices. Sometimes it is only the crisis of his or her own incurable cancer that can bring a doctor to the yoga mat. A few years ago, Dr. William Fair was one such skeptic. But, as an October 26, 1998 New Yorker article reported, he now incorporates complementary therapies—including yoga and meditation, vitamins, and a high-soy, low-fat diet—to help him live with his own incurable colon cancer.

Page 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Print Print Comment Comment Add to Favorites
Log in to save to My Yoga Journal!
Add to Favorites
Bookmark Bookmark
Full Name
Address 1
Address 2
Zip Code:
Email (req):

Reader Comments


It seems that the article is abbreviated, the last sentence cut off...

brender anne

i am afun of yoga and also have ablog on yoga your journal is areal encouragement and also a hope to those that had already lost hope, keep it up


This article was wonderful and thank you so much for sharing your journey. You mention of diet at the end of the article reminded me of a screening I recently attended for a move called 'Forks Over Knives'. Anyone who is interested in ways of healing and preventing certain diseases should check it out. I believe that with yoga and the right diet we can heal and prevent so many diseases that afflict our society today.

See All Comments »      Add a Comment »

Your Name:


Stay Connected with Us!

Yoga Journal Live events
ep14 YJ LIVE! Colorado
Estes Park, Colorado
Sep 14-21, 2014
florida YJ LIVE! Florida
Hollywood, FL
Nov 13-17, 2014

More Events

Join Yoga Journal's Benefits Plus
Liability insurance and benefits to support
teachers and studios.
Learn More
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 4 FREE GIFTS
Your subscription includes
Yoga for Neck & Shoulders • Yoga Remedies
Yoga for Headaches • Calm, Cool, Collected
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Yoga Journal
and my 4 FREE downloadable Yoga Booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions