Yoga for Cancer Patients: Benefits and Best Poses

Yoga for Cancer Patients

Did you know that in 2020, nearly 606,520 people have died of cancer? 

The American Cancer Society also reports that this disease is also prevalent in adolescents and young adults. Treatment methods like Chemotherapy, Radiation therapy, Immunotherapy, and Cryoablation can take a toll on the cancer patient. 

In particular, the elderly suffer a lot from anti-tumor medications as their body is no more resilient to foreign chemicals. A few days after the treatment, they feel weak and frail. This is why doctors recommended yoga for cancer patients.

Yoga for Cancer Patients – What Does the Research Say 

Several studies and experiments have been done to prove the efficacy of yoga and similar exercises as a non-medical treatment method for cancer. Although the majority of the efforts are directed to breast cancer, there is enough evidence to say that yoga is an effective non-medical treatment option for cancer patients. 

Needless to say, practicing yoga three times a week will not lead to a reduction of the tumor, but it keeps the patient active, healthy, and, most importantly, happy. 

Recent research by EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, Netherlands, concludes that yoga can reduce the effect of mental illnesses like distress, anxiety, and depression in a cancer patient.  

Before we move further with the poses and benefits of yoga for cancer patients, I would like to call your attention to the fact that several people claim yoga or any other non-medical treatment method as a fool-proof cure for cancer. Kindly do not believe in such false advertisement.

Here Are the Best Yoga Poses for Cancer Patients

1) Cross-Legged Sitting (Sukhasana)

Sukhasana is one of the best poses to begin your meditation session with. This is a relatively more relaxed pose or asana. In Buddhism and Hinduism, mediation is performed while sitting cross-legged. 

For Asians, sittings cross-legged is a norm. Such is not the case with people in the west. Here are the easy steps to practice sitting cross-legged.

Step 1: Stretch Beforehand

Not everyone can get right into the cross-legged position. If this posture seems unusual to you, it is best to prepare your lower body for it. 

  • Begin by lying on your back–preferably on a yoga mat or a thick fabric.
  • Bend your knees and swing them side to side. 
  • Do not rush during this stretch. 
  • You can lift both your legs and perform the same swinging motion. 

Step 2: Sit in a cross-legged position

Now your legs, thighs, and hips are prepared for this pose. 

  • Sit straight on a mat. 
  • Bend your left knee. 
  • Then place your right leg on top of the left leg. 
  • Sit in this position for about 5 minutes. 
  • Do not forget to breathe deeply.

2) Cat-Cow Pose (Bitilasana)

The cat-cow pose is another relaxed pose that is performed in the initial stages of a yoga session. For cancer patients who also suffer from low bone density, it is crucial not to put too much stress on the joints. The cat-cow pose is very gentle. It helps you stretch your spine, neck, and shoulders. Here are the easy-to-follow steps.

Step 1: Bring your body into a tabletop position

To get into the tabletop position, you need to get on the floor on your palms and knees. 

  • Make sure your knees make a 90-degree angle with your legs. 
  • Look down and push your shoulders back. 
  • Focus all your attention on your core area. 
  • If you are unable to stabilize your body, tuck your abdomen in. 

Step 2: Cow pose

You can begin with either cow or cat pose. 

  • To get into a cow pose, look up to the ceiling while extending your buttocks further. 
  • Take a deep breath. 
  • Make an arch with your spine and feel the stretch. 
  • Hold this pose for about 10 seconds.

Step 3: Cat pose

After cow pose, you can transition swiftly to cat pose with an exhale. 

  • Extent your back, so it is facing the ceiling. 
  • Look towards your navel. 
  • Make sure your abdomen is tight. 
  • Hold this pose for 10 seconds and then transition back to the cow pose.

3) Legs up the Wall (Viparita Karani)

This pose is intended to relax the lower body. If you find yourself exhausted and fatigued, this pose will boost your energy level. It also provides deep relaxation to the muscles located in the hips and hamstring region.

Step 1: Position your lower body at the base of a wall

Legs up the wall pose may seem simple on the onset, but before beginning this posture, there are some things you need to take into consideration. 

  • Make sure that you are using a solid wall for support. 
  • Do not place your legs on a plank of wood, cardboard, or any other lightweight surface. 
  • Position your buttocks on the base of the wall and keep your hand at the side.

Step 2: Lift your legs

Once you get a good grip on the ground, lift your legs. 

  • Make sure the inner side of your legs is in close contact with the surface of the wall. 
  • You can extend your legs even further by extending your legs in an upward direction. 
  • Hold this position for 15-20 seconds and repeat at least five times.

Benefits of Yoga for Cancer Patients

1) Promotes Emotional Well Being

Getting diagnosed with cancer is one of the worst feelings. Most people, after the diagnosis, enter into a depressive state where they find it challenging to fall asleep, eat well, and socialize with their peers. This is where yoga comes into the picture. 

There is scientific evidence suggesting that practicing yoga 3-4 times a week reduces anxiety and depression in a cancer patient. Cancer patients report feeling refreshed and rejuvenated after yoga sessions.

2) It Helps the Cancer Patient Cope With the Side Effects of Treatment

Cancer treatment options like Chemotherapy can be quite tortuous and tiring. Most patients go through 10-20 cycles of Chemotherapy before they begin to see any positive results. Loss of hair, loss of appetite, depressions, and physical weakness are some of the side-effects of Chemotherapy. 

Practicing yoga alongside the treatment can be beneficial to the cancer patient. Yoga not only relieves stress but also makes their body more robust, although it is best to consult your doctor if you have bone or muscle cancer.

3) Inhibits Autonomic Stress Responses

The fear of dying or living their life in a deadened state is quite prevalent in a cancer patient. This leads to the release of stress hormones capable of inducing physical changes in their body. 

Their heart-rate begins to go up, and muscles start to tense up every time they have a negative thought. Yoga helps them get rid of these thoughts by getting them to confront and fight the illness. In short, it prepares a cancer patient for the challenge ahead. 


Scientists and researchers believe stress to be one of the key causes in fast spreading of cancer. It can affect people of age. Yoga is one of the side-effects-free solutions to stress. So, whether you have cancer or not, adding yoga to your daily life is always going to be beneficial.

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Posted by / May 19, 2020