Yoga has long been a form of relaxation, meditation and exercise, dating back to several thousand years B.C. Originating out of India, yoga teaches us to focus on the self: mind, body, spirit. Which is exactly what cancer survivors need to do to heal. So it makes sense that a new study found that yoga can aid survivors with sleep, energy and vitality.
Researchers studied 410 cancer survivors who had difficulty sleeping. Half of the subjects participated in two 75-minute yoga sessions per week, in addition to post-cancer care that the whole group received. The sessions consisted of 18 poses that incorporated breathing exercises and meditation. At the end of a month, sleeplessness improved in the yoga group by 100 percent.
Before the study started, only 15 percent of participants in both groups were sleeping soundly. At the end of the study, 16 percent of the control group were able to sleep soundlyâ��an increase of only 1 percentâ��whereas the yoga group doubled their stats to 31 percent. Given the fact that the yoga group had decreased their sleep medication by 20 percent, while the control group increased theirs by 5 percent, there is a strong link between the practice of yoga and improved sleep ability.
The yoga group also reported an improvement in fatigue. â��If you break down the program into its basicsâ��breathing exercises, postures, mindfulnessâ��it's not entirely clear which component ... is most important," lead researcher Karen Mustian said. "It could be they all work together to improve sleep, fatigue and quality of life ... or it could be that one of them is really the most important piece."
Very little is required to begin practicing yoga:
Attire: loose-fitting pants or shorts that have some give so that you can move freely, along a tank top, t-shirt and/or a sports bra depending on coverage you are comfortable with. No special shoes are required. In fact, most classes are taught barefoot.
Accessories: the only real accessory you should have is a yoga mat, which can be purchased inexpensively at your local Target or fitness store. The mat provides a comfortable, stable surface for movement, and provides traction so you donâ��t slip during poses. It also protects feet and hands from the harsh, hard nature of the floor. If you find it difficult to stand for any length of time but still want to get a workout in, consider purchasing a yoga ball. Available in a variety of sizes, you can sit and stabilize your body as you go through poses. An added bonus is a core workout while on the ball, as you do need to balance as you sit.
See page two for available internet instruction links and videos.
If you want to start slowly, cannot find a yoga class in your area, or want to practice yoga in the privacy of your own home, there is a wealth of available instruction on the internet. Here are a few links to get you started:
Yoga TV has links to online videos showing all levels of instruction.
Yoga Today is a site you can register for, but also has a free yoga class every week.
Free Online Animated Yoga has a variety of different poses, stretches, postures, and breathing techniques for you to choose from, acted out with animated figures.
Yoga Poses and Yoga Yak are both relatively easy sites to watch free yoga instructional videos or short sequences for certain body techniques. With Yoga Poses, you can create a personalized yoga routine for free by registering on their site and picking and choosing from any number of YouTube videos users upload to the site.
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