When people think of cancer patients, they imagine skinny, fragile bodies. And yes, this is often the case during active treatment, prolonged treatment, or late stages of cancer. But for many people, weight gain is a common side effect of cancer treatment. Weight gain has significant impact on both physical and psychological aspects of a survivor’s life. And a great concern of weight gain is increased chances of reoccurrence.
Obesity is a key indicator of both cancer incidence and recurrence. The American Cancer Society recommends that obese individuals increase the standard weekly exercise from 150 minutes to 300 minutes per week to reduce the chances of cancer or recurrence. Thus managing one’s weight should be a focus of any cancer patient or survivor (and everyone in general).
Yoga provides a safe, gentle way to manage weight. Research on the impact of yoga on weight gain is still in early stages. One study showed that yoga had a more positive impact on obesity (and depression) than aerobic exercise.
But not all yoga is the same. And I would not argue that all styles will help you manage weight gain. Often, yoga for cancer survivors is focused on gentle or restorative yoga methods, which are necessary and beneficial approaches. But they are not an active yoga practice. Many yoga teachers are afraid to make cancer patients and survivors move and be active in class.
It is a mistake to coddle survivors, treating them as sick. I remember this from my own days of attending a yoga class with my bald head and the teacher encouraging me to lie in restorative poses and not participate in the active yoga class. I felt isolated, ashamed, and annoyed. Worse, if I had listened to my teacher, I would not have benefited fully from the active yoga practice. Therefore, including an active practice is the foundation of y4c methodology.
Yoga for cancer survivors can be active, therefore calorie burning; and it can be safe, physically accessible, welcoming, and inclusive. Yoga can help cancer survivors manage weight gain, which improves self-esteem and the ability to function normally, and ultimately reduces the risk of recurrence
*Excerpt from ‘Yoga for Cancer: A Guide to Managing Side Effects, Boosting Immunity, and Improving Recovery for Cancer Survivors’.*
Tari Prinster, a cancer survivor, master yoga teacher, and author of Yoga for Cancer, developed Yoga4Cancer (y4c) methodology using contemporary research on cancer and yoga. Profits from the book will go to The Retreat Project, a nonprofit Tari founded whose mission is to help underserved cancer survivors through yoga. To read more of Tari’s work or pre-order the book, click here, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.