There is a tremendous value to incorporating acts of “simplicity” during the course of the day. Many people hear the word “yoga” and shy away from the practice thinking they will be asked to bend and move into complicated shapes that are acrobatic and unnatural. In Sanskrit, the word “yoga” means to “yoke” or “become one.” This approach is very helpful to incorporate on a daily basis during cancer treatment and beyond. The act of reconnecting to your natural rhythm during times that feel so unnatural demonstrates the beauty of yoga. There are very simple ways to experience the benefits of yoga on a daily basis. During times of stress, allow yourself to take just a few minutes to “rest and relax” by incorporating your breath into very micro movements. If you are in bed, you can inhale as you flex your feet and point your toes on the exhale. Repeat that a few times and listen to your breath while being mindful of the movement of your feet, to and fro. Maybe you are sitting upright and feeling fatigued. Take a few moments to do a few breath-connected shoulder shrugs. Inhale and shrug your shoulders up, exhale, release your shoulders back down. Do that a few times with your eyes closed, feet firmly planted on the ground beneath you and feel the healing effects of yoga. It’s truly that simple.
Linking deep, audible inhales and exhales with simple movements of the body defines a yoga practice. This can be practiced anywhere, including during treatment, in a busy waiting room or in the privacy of your own home, as you give yourself a few moments to unwind from the challenges of cancer treatment. There are yoga classes offered at many comprehensive cancer centers these days. It’s a great idea to investigate these classes to see if they align with your schedule. If so, try one. At the Abramson Cancer Center, our yoga program has gained great popularity and we are now offering classes on a daily basis. The beauty of practicing within a program that is hospital based is that the practice is geared toward cancer patients. Many people who come to practice once to try it wind up staying and incorporating yoga in their daily lives. Starting or continuing with a yoga practice during cancer treatment is a great opportunity to “check in” with your self. It’s that simple.
Fern Nibauer-Cohen is the associate director of program development in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Penn Medicine. She is a lifelong yoga practitioner and instructor for cancer patients and oversees the Yoga for Cancer Patients and their Caregivers program at Penn Medicine, along with lead instructor, Tali Ben-Josef. Together, Fern and Tali are dedicated to making yoga accessible to all to help ease the stress of a cancer diagnosis and provide ongoing support through treatment into survivorship. Learn more about the Yoga Program at Penn Medicine.