5 Ways Yoga Helps Prevent Cancer

Preventive measures can be taken daily to keep our health in check. Eating right is only but one aspect, but how we treat ourselves, mentally and emotionally also plays a big part. About half of ALL men and one-third of women will develop cancer in the United States. That's almost half us. An increase body of research shows that yoga can help prevent cancer. It also helps cancer patients and survivors manage risks and side effects after treatment. Yoga brings balance and alignment to all body parts and systems: muscles, organs, and the mind. It is essentially a holistic path to wellness and healing that focuses on interconnection.

Photography by XO Quinntographer

Photography by XO Quinntographer

Here are 5 reasons why yoga should be everyone's cancer-prevention plan.

1. Yoga detoxifies the body.

Detoxification is the vital metabolic process by which dead cells and toxins are excreted from the body. Yoga acts at the muscle of the lymphatic system - the body's plumbing and trash-removal system. Similar to the heart muscle circulating blood, yoga increases lymphatic flow with specific breathing and movement practices. Yoga also detoxifies the mind as well. We can detoxify the mind by using the movement of the breath, by relaxing into gravity in a restorative pose, and by quietly watching our thoughts in meditation.

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2. Yoga builds bones.

Our bones house bone marrow, where new red and white blood cells are constantly being produced. White blood cells are needed to form leukocytes, our natural cancer-fighting immune cells. If our bones are compromised from a break or from osteoporosis (a side effect of chemotherapy), so too is the production of a nourishing blood supply and immune protection. Yoga is also safer for strong bone building than many gym routines, because it puts weight on the bones in a precise, deliberate way.

3. Yoga strengthens the immune system.

The goal of strengthening the immune system is to keep all of the body’s systems working together. Failure of any one system threatens the health of the entire system.

Regular practice of gentle yoga and meditation has a rapid effect at the genetic level in circulating cancer-fighting immune cells. Mindfulness meditation also appears to change the brain and immune function in positive ways.

4. Yoga reduces stress.

Yoga enhances a positive mindset. The results of a 2009 study on the effects of yoga on emotions found an increase in positive emotions such as calmness and a sense of purpose in more than 50 percent of subjects. Participants in a 10-week program of restorative yoga classes gained positive differences in aspects of mental health such as depression, positive emotions, and spirituality (feeling calm and peaceful), as compared to the control group/

5. Yoga is good for weight management.

Obesity is a key, if not the largest, indicator of both cancer incidence and recurrence. In the United States, excess body weight is thought to contribute to as many as one out of five cancer-related deaths.

Yoga has a more positive impact on obesity and depression than aerobic exercise. While yoga for cancer survivors often focuses on gentle or restorative yoga methods (which are necessary and beneficial approaches), it can and should be active, and therefore calorie burning—while also being 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 and mortality. 

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