yoga for cancer - extended child poseBy: Virginia Iversen, M.Ed

Facing a cancer diagnosis can be shocking and terrifying for many people. A cancer diagnosis can “come out of left field” for many people and cause so much distress and heartache that the person may become immobilized in the face of such a serious health crisis. However, being proactive in the face of a cancer diagnosis and the ensuing treatments has a profound ripple effect on your ability to navigate a challenging situation with as much grace, dignity and ease as possible. There are many different ways to help support your mental and physical health if you are diagnosed with cancer.

One such way is to engage in a regular practice of Yoga for cancer with postures, breathing exercises and stress relief techniques, such as Yoga Nidra. If you are Yoga practitioner and you are struggling with a cancer diagnosis, creating a structured practice that is appropriate for your level of health will help to support you through a very challenging time in your life. If you are undergoing cancer treatments, including surgery, radiation and/or chemotherapy treatments, it may be necessary to adjust the type of Yoga practice that you engage in by subtly shifting the balance of your time on the mat towards a more restorative and stress-relieving practice, instead of a strenuous series of Yoga postures and breathing exercises.

There are many ways to modify your Yoga practice, in order to meet your physical, emotional and spiritual needs when you are facing cancer. One way is to engage in a slower, more restorative flow of postures, which deeply releases tension throughout the body and mind. If you are feeling weak or are still recovering from a surgical procedure or other cancer treatment, practicing simple poses can help to safely and effectively release stress and tension throughout the body. If you are a seasoned Yoga practitioner, it may feel quite frustrating at first to slow down your practice in the face of a cancer diagnosis.

However with time, patience and the willingness to adjust your practice to appropriately match your physical, emotional and spiritual needs on any given day, you will find that your Yoga practice becomes a life raft in the midst of a very turbulent sea. Although many of us may feel that we are only truly practicing Yoga if we flow through a series of very strenuous Ashtanga Yoga postures and fiery breathing exercises, the practice of Yoga traditionally was focused on creating ease and spaciousness in the body and quietude in the mind, so that a Yogi or Yogini was more easily able to sit in meditation for an extended period of time.

* Extended Child’s Pose

Extended Child’s Pose is a very accessible Yoga posture that will help to release tension throughout the front of your torso, heart area, throat, shoulders, neck and upper back. When you are ready to practice Extended Child’s Pose, come to a kneeling position on your Yoga mat. If your knees are sensitive, place a folded blanket underneath you for padding. With your next inhale, raise your arms over your head and gently press your palms together in Prayer Position.

With an exhale; bring your arms back down to your sides and your hands in front of your heart. Repeat this flowing movement two more times with your breath, and then come to rest on your heels. This movement will help to coordinate your breathing with the movement of your body. It will also help to begin to gently release tension throughout your upper torso, arms and shoulders. To move into Extended Child’s Pose, place your cupped hands at the front of your Yoga mat with your arms comfortably stretched out in front of you. Adjust the position of your knees on your Yoga mat if you need more of a stretch.

Sink your chest down towards your Yoga mat, while you “suction cup” your hands into your mat. Focus your gaze at a point on the floor approximately 6-12 inches in front of you. This will help to increase the stretch throughout your heart area and throat. If your neck bothers you, do not look up; keep your neck in a straight line with your spine as you gaze at a comfortable point on the mat between your arms. Hold Extended Child’s Pose for three to five complete, full breaths, and then release the posture and come back to a kneeling position on your Yoga mat.

Virginia Iversen, M.Ed, has been practicing and studying the art of Yoga for over twenty years. She lives in Woodstock, New York, where she works as a writer and an academic support specialist. She is currently accepting Yoga and health-related writing orders and may be contacted at:

© Copyright 2015 – Aura Wellness Center – Publications Division

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