Editor’s note: The following content is for informational purposes only. It’s not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you are going through cancer treatment or have gone through treatment in the past, check with your doctor before starting yoga or any other exercise.
I have only taken a couple of yoga classes in my life, but I have friends who go daily. After researching this blog, I can see why. Yoga offers a host of psychological and physical benefits, many of which are well documented.
One of the top reasons people practice yoga is for stress relief. So it makes sense that a growing number of yogis include domestic violence survivors and cancer patients/survivors.
Specialized yoga classes have sprung up across the country for cancer patients, cancer survivors and domestic violence survivors. You can find these classes — many times at no cost — in hospitals, community centers and women’s shelters.
These specialized classes are designed to be gentle. We’re not talking hot yoga here. So if you can’t find a class tailored for oncology or domestic violence, look for gentle yoga.
Here are five benefits for cancer or domestic violence survivors:
- Stress relief. Gentle yoga lowers your heart rate, tames your blood pressure and reduces the stress hormone, cortisol. All of this leaves you feeling more relaxed and in a better mood.
- Reduced Inflammation. A UCLA study found that 12-minutes of yoga meditation per day reduced the body’s mechanisms to produce inflammation. This is significant because long-term inflammation contributes to a multitude of chronic health problems.
- Better sleep. Several studies found that gentle yoga can be helpful for cancer patients or anyone experiencing insomnia.
- Improved quality of life. A University of Texas study found that yoga helped women undergoing radiation therapy reduce fatigue and improve mental outlook. Another study found that simple stretching counteracts fatigue, but yoga is even more effective because it includes meditation benefits.
- Healthier body image. Part of yoga includes connecting with your body and appreciating it for what it does. A cancer patient may be nervous about losing her hair. Sometimes domestic violence survivors have been convinced they are not good enough. Yoga can help change those thoughts.
Research studies are more prevalent with cancer than domestic violence. However, I found strong anecdotal evidence for both groups. Some small studies indicate that yoga helps with post-traumatic stress disorder, which is common with domestic violence survivors.
While yoga may not be a cure all, it offers some hope to those struggling with cancer or domestic violence.
We’d love to hear from you. Do you practice yoga? How does it help you?
Stacy Graves is a contributing editor of The Mary Kay Foundation℠ blog and website. She’s worked in some type of communication role for Mary Kay Inc. or The Mary Kay Foundation℠ since 1994 — loving every minute.