This post was most recently updated on April 15th, 2020

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The psychology of individuals who experience cancer and its treatment and the psychology of their caretakers deeply influences the health outcome. It directly impacts the quality of life of the cancer patient. Adopting tools like Yoga for psychological wellbeing and to address emotional and spiritual distress goes a long way.

Psychological Distress Factors For Cancer-Patients

The word ‘CANCER’ creates fear in minds and hearts of people. Fighting this fear and stigma is harder than fighting the cancer per se. When somebody is diagnosed with cancer, it seeds numerous questions, doubts and concerns. It directly disturbs the mind, creates stress and anxiety. It drains a lot of energy. Every single cell of the body is affected.

[ You might like to read: Research paper on Stress and Hormones ]

A cancer patient has a lot of things to deal with every minute of the day. The physical symptoms of his/her cancer, the effects and side effects of the treatment, mental stress with regards to finances, social stigma, fear of recurrence and death. Patients may feel demoralized. They may feel inadequate / guilty as they may be unable to fulfill their roles in the family and society.

The mental distress for the family caretaker is equally bad. Fear of losing a loved one, physical demands of care, logistical and financial challenges, continuous emotional support for the patient and the continuous challenge of tracking health, discovering potential cures are all very very draining. They may even face emotional breakdowns.

What is there in your mind on a consistent basis is what you experience in your life

There is this symptom – distress – symptom cycle. This needs attention. Here comes the role of psycho-oncology. Psycho-oncology addresses the two major psychological dimensions of cancer:

(1) the psychological responses of patients to cancer at all stages of the disease, and that of their families, caretakers and health care providers;

(2) The psychological, behavioural and social factors that may influence the disease process.

Apart from psychotherapy, behavioural therapy and psychological counselling, adoption of YOGA will have tremendous benefit to the cancer patients and their caretakers. It helps reducing physical, mental and spiritual disturbances. Each one of them is interlinked and inter-dependent. Yoga is an art, a science and a philosophy. It touches life at every level, be it physical, mental or spiritual.

“Your illness does not define you. Your strength and Positivity does”

Yoga For Psychological Wellbeing

Many patients tend to go into denial. They lose focus and become non-attentive. Acceptance & clarity of mind is required to move into a positive state mind leading to better decision making. Yoga is a method to do this. It calms the mind.

मनः प्रसमनोपायः योग इत्यभिदीयते

– योग वासिष्ठ

The above quote in Sanskrit, is read as “Manaha Prasamanopayah Yoga Ityabhidiyate”. It translates to “Yoga is a means for calming the mind”. This is achieved by a systematic 8‑fold path called Ashtanga Yoga. [अष्टांग योग]. This pragmatic description enumerates eight stages of yoga, which if practiced systematically allows one to attain a state of sublimation of all mental modifications in the mind and super consciousness (Samadhi).

These systematic yoga techniques in Ashtanga Yoga are

  1. Yama’s [ यम ] (moral doctrines),
  2. Niyamas [ नियम ] (disciplines),
  3. Asanas [ आसन ] (postures),
  4. Pranayama [ प्राणायाम ] (regulated nostril breathing/breath control),
  5. Pratyahara [ प्रत्याहार ] (introspection / in drawing mind away from perceptible external sensory stimuli),
  6. Dharana [ धारण ](concentration),
  7. Dhyana [ ध्यान ] (meditation), and
  8. finally Samadhi [ समाधि ](absorption). Attainment of such a contemplative absorptive state has been elucidated to confer a blissful state of mind and body.

Yoga For Spiritual Wellbeing

Spiritual distress is defined as a disruption in the fundamental belief system / value system or life principle. It pervades a person’s entire being and that integrates and transcends one’s biological and psychological nature. Spiritual disruption means we lose the guiding North Star of our existence.

yoga_for_cancer
Meditation – Yoga for Psychological Wellbeing

“Within you there is stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time”

– Herman Hesse

Attaining spiritual balance is the key. The stillness can be mastered by yoga. Maharshi Patanjali defines yoga beautifully as “Yogaś-chitta-vr̥tti-nirodhaḥ” [ योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः ] meaning “Yoga is the cessation of modifications in the mind”. Yogic philosophy explains that the suffering and afflictions be it in any form, a disease or a downfall, are because of ignorance, egoism, attachment, aversion and fear of death. They are the negative approaches in life that take us away from the main purpose of living.  They may be evident or occult in an individual. Recognizing them and getting rid of them is the key. Yoga, by its philosophy and science helps you to reform your thoughts and intentions. It calms down your mind and gives you the ability to focus and be aware. It trains your mind towards positivity on all grounds.

योगश्चित्तवृत्तिनिरोधः

महर्षि पतंजलि

[ Also see Understanding Wellness ]

In the context of cancer care, Yoga for psychological wellbeing, is a strategic tool to counter the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual challenges that patients and care givers experience. The psychological aspects of care are mostly neglected in our healthcare system. The onus is on us to approach healing from the mind and body perspective.

[ Also see Yoga For Cancer ]

Author Profile

Dr. Deepashree S. (B.N.Y.S), (MSCCFT)


Dr. Deepashree is a Yoga and Naturopathy specialist with ANVAY. She has 4+ years of experience in providing therapeutic guidance on Yoga and Principles of Nature Cure to Cancer Patients and their care givers. Additionally she helps people in combating and management of numerous other health and disease conditions like Mental health, Lifestyle disorders & also Pre natal, Ante natal and Post natal care. She has also been an invited speaker in international conferences and has authored publications in peer reviewed journals.

AT ANVAY, we have guided programs (online and in-person) anchored by Dr. Deepashree to help you meaningfully adopt Yoga and accelerate your healing.

If interested, please write to support@anvay.co or Whatsapp +91 98800 48094 or fill in the Contact Form.