Sunday, January 13, 2008

Yoga and Meditation

Yoga for Cancer

Cancer patients often find themselves in distracted states of mind—bombarded as they are by frightening, sometimes contradictory, information, subjected to invasive, painful procedures, and not-always-compassionate medical care. When our minds are so grievously disturbed, we may find it impossible to make crucial decisions or relate satisfactorily to our family and friends. Practicing Pranayam, meditation and relaxation help in reliving tension. When the tension is released, energy can flow more easily in the body and allow patients to experience a sense of well-being and strength—a balance of body, mind, and spirit.

The most compelling reason why cancer patients are turning to yoga is that:

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It shows us how a person stricken with a serious illness, instead of "running away" from their threatened body,
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Patients can connect more strongly to their body and
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Begin to experience self-empowerment and well-being.
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Improved sleep pattern.


As we engage our physical selves in the precise body gestures of yoga, our minds come along, growing accustomed to focusing on the affairs of this moment and leaving worries and future-thinking behind. As we breathe and meditate, our minds grow more clear and steady.

The physical benefits of yoga seem obvious to a cancer patient. Range of motion, flexibility, strength, relaxation, and a sense of bodily well-being are enhanced by practicing the postures. But there is an additional, more mystical, benefit of yoga.

Depending on what parts of your body are affected, what type of cancer you have (or had), and your physical abilities, your practice will be specific to you. You may not be able to safely or comfortably do the posture the way the teacher or someone else is doing it. That's okay. Modify or change the position so it feels good for you. You will find out what works for you, what you are able to do, and what helps you to move in a positive direction.

When you are practicing a posture, do what you can without creating more pain. You may feel discomfort, but going to the point of sharp pain is not going to benefit you. Sometimes the postures are easier if you don't try as hard - if you actually do less. Ask yourself if you can let go of something: it could be tension or holding in the body, or it could be an expectation or judgment you have about yourself.


Dissolving tension with Pranayam



The term pranayama combines prana, breath, with yama, meaning extension or control, and describes a crucial practice in yoga. This "science of the breath" involves attention to inhalation, exhalation, and retention or holding.


When we are frightened, we hold our breath or breathe shallowly or raggedly. To open up the chest again, one can practice breathing techniques based on pranayama, such as abdominal breathing, deep breathing, bellows breathing (with forceful abdominal exhalations), and alternate-nostril breathing. (As breath practices can have powerful effects on the body, they should be learned from a qualified yoga instructor, for safety's sake.) Done properly, they can dissolve stress and emotional excitation, freeing the mind from anxiety

Meditation

With the practices of concentration, (Dharana) and meditation (Dhyana) which yoga affords us, a patient can focus and let go of nagging preoccupations.


Asanas like the Child's Pose might need to modified according to the patient. Asanas help to correct the vertebral column and they balance the muscular tone.

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