Disclaimer: There is a lot of information about yoga and cancer, and that leaves many people wondering which information is trustworthy. I’ll go ahead and remind you that I am not a doctor or a nurse. I don’t pretend to be. I cannot tell you anything diagnostic, and I won’t be recommending anything like courses of treatment. My hope for this series is to shine light on timely information from reputable sources so that you can have meaningful conversations with your licensed healthcare providers. I also hope that talking about cancer experiences will help us tell others about cancer support that they may not know exists, like my oncology yoga classes.
We will look at three things we can learn about yoga and cancer prevention, so let’s begin by defining yoga. Yoga is too old, too rich, too deep, and too multi-faceted to be reduced to a single lineage. You will notice that yoga vocabulary comes from the Sanskrit language, which is the root of many Indian languages. In the same way that many anatomical names like cardio (καρδιο), hypo and hyper, are derived from Greek or Latin, yogic terms come from Sanskrit because yoga originates in the Indian sub-continent.
Yoga is an eight-fold path that includes:
- Asana, or a posture like Warrior 2 and Tree. While the poses themselves are beneficial, the practice of concentration between postures and devotion to regular practice are equally beneficial components of the asanas.
- Yama, which is your governing ethics. The 5 Yamas are ahimsa (non-violence) aparigraha (not lusting or coveting) asteya (not stealing) brahmacharya (caring for your soul) and satya (truth).
- Niyama, or your self-discipline toward regular practices like meditating, praying, reading scriptures, fasting, or retreating. The 5 Niyamas are isvara pranidhana (trusting surrender to God), santosha (contentment), saucha (cleanliness), svadhyaya (studying yourself), and tapas (heat, or the inner flame inside yourself).
- Pranayama, or breathing. You can practice pranayama on its own or incorporate it into your asana.
- Pratyahara, or detachment. This concept includes stepping away from your attachments in order to objectively look at yourself.
- Dharana, or concentration on a single point, idea, or concept. It is actively tuning out distractions to be single-minded.
- Dhyana, or meditation. This perfect stillness is often the goal of dharana.
- Samadhi, or peace that passes understanding. It is a type of transcendent joy and hope that come from being deeply rooted in and devoted to your core beliefs.
It is important to define yoga in detail because we must step outside the idea that yoga is just a series of poses. The power of yoga is beyond the physical poses; the power of yoga is beyond the physical. Yoga includes breath work, spiritual inspection, a search for truth, learning to still your mind, and many other tenets that are not always covered in an article or a yoga class.
Second, let’s look at what cancer prevention means. For the sake of this article, prevention means “the act of preventing.” When considering your source of information, you may want to look at credentials. Are they licensed physicians? What type of research has been done to support their claims? How broad is their data? This may be of importance to you. As you read studies, look at the scope and sequence of their research. Which types of cancer were treated, which types of yoga were used, and the frequency and duration of the practice may be of interest to you. Always discuss things with your own physicians to see if yoga or a new healthcare practice is right for you. Some licensed healthcare providers, especially those in the field of integrative medicine, are Registered Yoga Teachers in addition to being medical doctors. This may be of interest to you when you are selecting your cancer care provider.
Last, let’s look at some data. Brilliant researchers make advances in the field of oncology every day, and that is good news! Below are some articles I hope you will appreciate.
Does Sugar Feed Cancer?
—Society for Integrative Oncology, Continue Reading Article
Intake of Fiber and Nuts During Adolescence and Incidence of Proliferative Benign Breast Disease
— NIH PubMed, Continue Reading Article
“Early diagnosis is important, but can you go one better? Can you reduce your risk of getting cancer in the first place? It sounds too good to be true, but it’s not. Scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health estimate that up to 75% of American cancer deaths can be prevented. The 10 commandments of cancer prevention are…”
— Harvard Health Publishing Continue Reading Article
“Like any illness or disease, cancer can occur without warning. Many factors that increase your cancer risk are beyond your control, such as your family history and your genes. Others, such as whether you smoke or get regular cancer screenings, are within your control. Changing certain habits can give you a powerful tool to help prevent cancer. It all starts with your lifestyle.“
— Medline Plus, Continue Reading Article
“How much do daily habits like diet and exercise affect your risk for cancer? More than you might think. Research has shown that poor diet and not being active are key factors that can increase a person’s cancer risk. The good news is that you can do something about this.”
— American Cancer Society, Continue Reading Article
“Nerve growth factor (NGF), tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α), and interleukin-6 (IL-6) are among the early experimental cellular biomarkers that may be used to probe the modulation of oral cancer, obesity, and neurodegenerative disorders. Yoga has been reported to influence these molecules in healthy individuals but whether their expression can be altered in patients of oral cancer by yoga intervention is the subject of this research being discussed in this review article.”
– Europe PubMed Central Continue Reading Article
“Want to Try and Prevent Cancer? Then Don’t Fall for These 7 Common Myths About the Disease“
— Johnson & Johnson Continue Reading Article
“Given the fact that many cancers can be averted, what would it take to make the dream of prevention a reality?”
— Madeline Drexler, Editor of Harvard Public Health Continue Reading Article
Sarah does not provide medical advice or promote any product, organization, or service. The contents on this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek advice from a licensed, qualified physician or health care professional about any medical concern. Do not disregard professional medical advice because of anything you may read on this website. Sarah is not responsible for errors or omissions in information provided on this site or any actions resulting from the use of such information.