Using yoga to help yourself through treatment

At some stage during my cancer treatment last year I started doing gentle yoga at home. I think it was after my chemotherapy and surgery – around the time of radiotherapy.

A good friend of mine was starting out as a yoga instructor and offered to do some in-home sessions with me at a reduced rate. I was just delighted and she started to call to my house once or twice a week for hour-long yoga sessions.

It was wonderful and the sessions really helped me so much.

Getting a good all-over body stretch from all the different postures felt great on my body. The challenge of attempting all of the postures (not difficult) was a good distraction and the feeling of the different stretches achieved in the different postures was often very enjoyable. I don’t know how many times I said, “Can we do that sequence again, it felt really good?”

I also loved the whole side of it that involved the deep breathing. Just deep, steady, calm breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth, during the session. It was calming. Steadying. Revitalising. I loved thinking about all the fresh oxygen I was sending around my body and to all my cells. It also taught me the power of using my breath to calm myself and/or re-energise.

My friend would end our session with a meditation. I would be lying on my mat. She would begin a simple meditation of imagining stepping into a warm bath, and the water and warm feeling of relaxation spreading up my body, from the very tips of my toes, spreading through each and every part of my body until it reached right up to the top of my head. It was very peaceful.

These couple of hours of yoga every week really helped me. They got me out of my head. They calmed me. They brought positive focus. They brought endorphins. Plus it was always nice to have a chat and a laugh with a good friend at the same time.

Over the last year I have continued to use restorative yoga to support me through my cancer experience. When I got stronger, I joined my friend’s first public classes. I also continued to do yoga at home, watching free videos online like those from Yoga With Adriene. I also attended a number of Miriam Kerin’s’ Saturday Breathe & Be Yoga Workshops.

In the last couple of months I am feeling stronger than ever and I’m delighted to now be doing hot yoga at a local hot yoga studio near my house. I’ve always been keen to do hot yoga but never tried it in a properly heated studio. I’ve been now about three times and it’s just wonderful.

They heat the studio to 37 degrees celcius. It’s a ‘humid’ sort of a heat rather than the heat you experience in a sauna. As you work your way through the yoga session, it gets warmer and warmer, until you are really sweating! It’s not for everyone, I’m sure, but I love it. Sweating is a fantastic way to detox the body so I’m all up for that.

I’m also really enjoying the different yoga classes on offer in this studio. The instructors are all excellent. I’ve signed up for unlimited yoga for the next 30 days and am excited to keep going for the next few weeks. I’m hoping to encourage a wider range of movement back into my right arm, which has not fully recovered from my surgery last year.

This new stage of yoga is more challenging on my body but I’m going at my own pace. I love that yoga has been able to support me all this time through my cancer experience.

No matter where you are in your cancer journey, there’s a style of yoga that can support you too. Restorative yoga in particular is gentle, soulful and positive. I would highly recommend trying yoga and using yoga to support your body, mind and soul through your cancer treatment and beyond.

Some cancer support centres offer gentle yoga classes that could be a great place to start. Otherwise take a look around at what’s on offer in your community.

Let me know in the comments if you are using yoga to support yourself through treatment.



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