Why Yoga for Cancer Recovery?

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 A Blog Post by Dr. Robyn Tiger

“Cancer steals your breath, yoga gives it back.” –Tari Prinster

As a physician, I spent 15 years in Diagnostic Radiology with a focus on Women’s Imaging. Throughout that time period, I witnessed the amazing technological advancements of Western Medicine enabling us to more readily detect and treat cancer. Although I was so very grateful for all of this technology, I realized that a large portion of patient care was missing: How do we help patients heal? What do we do to help individuals beyond their disease? State of the art treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation are wonderful for treating the cancer, but they can result in physical limitations, emotional distress, and dampened spirit. I felt compelled to do more.  For years, other than giving patients a hug and a smile, I was completely lost as to how to be of help. I knew that my job as a doctor was not nearly complete. What can fill this hole in patient care? I found my answer: yoga.

Medical research has proven that specialized yoga practices diminish the side effects of cancer therapies during and after treatment. In addition, they significantly decrease stress levels, improve overall well-being, and increase longevity. Amazing!

What makes yoga for cancer recovery different than other yoga classes? Specialty trained teachers adapt and create safe and effective variations for every body , individualizing the practices to meet the needs of each person. Certain practices are included to lessen and reverse cancer treatment side effects and certain practices are excluded that could exacerbate an already existing side effect. 

Yoga diminishes the side effects from cancer therapies in many ways including its ability to:

  • Decrease stress, fear & anxiety
  • Strengthen the immune system
  • Improve range of motion 
  • Strengthen bones 
  • Decrease neuropathy (pain, numbness, tingling hands/feet)
  • Relieve hot flashes from premature menopause
  • Improve balance
  • Decrease falls
  • Decrease overall pain
  • Improve sleep patterns
  • Improve digestion
  • Improve focus and concentration—decrease chemo brain
  • Increase self-esteem and body image

What’s the bottom line? Yoga allows individuals on the cancer journey to take an active role in their own journey to healing!

Are you on the cancer journey? If so, join me in class! Come exactly as you are. No experience is necessary and you can practice from a mat or a chair. If you are not on the cancer journey, please share with others who may benefit. 

For further reading on the effectiveness of yoga for relieving neuropathy from chemotherapy, see my recently published paper: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1534735419850627?af=R&ai=1gvoi&mi=3ricys


Much metta, loving kindness,


Robyn Tiger MD, C-IAYT, RYT-500


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