Friday, February 4, 2011

Yoga Helps Heal Heart & Emotional Scars of Cancer

By Felicia Wong, M.D.

“Cancer is a very alienating and existential disease. I know of no other common disease that immediately causes so much fear, anxiety, depression, confusion, and a sense of impending disaster in a patient or his/her significant others when they hear the word “cancer” for the first time.” --- Murray Krelstein, MD, a psychiatrist and cancer survivor.
Although oncologists, family members, and friends can provide significant sources of support, adding a mental health professional to a cancer patient’s treatment team is often helpful. Talking about the emotions and worries associated with cancer can be difficult, and it is important to have a therapist who is familiar with these situations. Additionally, cancer patients and survivors often suffer from sleep disorders, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and other mood changes.
Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center found that among patients receiving chemotherapy, over three-quarters suffer from insomnia. Those who suffer from insomnia are, in turn, more likely to suffer from fatigue and depression. For 65% of cancer survivors, insomnia continues even after the completion of chemotherapy.
Cancer is a diagnosis that affects both body and mind. So, it makes sense that cancer patients and survivors practice yoga to improve their quality of life.
While research on the use of yoga for cancer is relatively new, there have been recent studies confirming yoga’s mental health benefits. A Harvard Health Publication highlights the benefits of yoga for stress, depression, and anxiety:
- By reducing perceived anxiety, yoga appears to adjust stress response systems. This, in turn, reduces heart rate, lowers blood pressure, and can make breathing easier.
- There is evidence that yoga practices helps increase heart rate variability, an indicator of the body's ability to respond to stress more flexibly.
Optimizing wellness after a cancer diagnosis and beyond involves a complex integration of interventions that address both the mind and the body. Ideally, a psychiatrist is part of the cancer treatment team. However, if this is not available, please ask your doctor for referrals.
For additional resources on coping with cancer:

1 comment:

  1. Peace of mind for even a few minutes a day can make such a difference. This practice of meditation is so important to a healing body, great article!-PsychedinSF


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