Guest post by Jillian McKee
It is heartbreaking when children are diagnosed with cancer. The treatment affects not only them, but their families, doctors and communities as well. The treatments for cancer exhaust the body and it is difficult to watch as children become ill and bed-ridden from cancer treatment, when they would normally be out growing, playing baseball, having sleepovers and painting nails. During this treatment, both the minds and the bodies of children take a toll. They become exhausted, lose muscle, have stunted growth and high levels of stress. For these reasons, many doctors have started recommending yoga as a therapy along with the normal cancer treatment regimen.
The breathing and meditative practices utilized in yoga are especially helpful to children, both physically and spiritually. On a spiritual level, it reduces the amount of stress and anxiety for both the children and their families. When we breathe, we breathe in prana, or life energy. By breathing slowly and deeply, children can learn to rid themselves of excess anxiety and emotions. It is also a way for parents to learn to remain calm and stress-free. When the parents are calm and reassuring, it allows for a better experience for the children.
Using breathing techniques also helps on a physical level. The body is able to eliminate more toxins and work more efficiently as more oxygen enters into it. The treatments for cancer are extremely toxic, which makes this technique beneficial. A breathing practice is also very helpful to children suffering from cancers that can inhibit their breathing, such as rare aggressive disease mesothelioma that is triggered from asbestos exposure. Mesothelioma can cause shortness of breath, fatigue, and wheezing. When breathing deeply using techniques taught through yoga, these symptoms can lessen.
During cancer treatment, children are often bed-ridden and hospital-bound. Their muscles deplete, and they are not engaging in the normal play that enables them to gain muscle and flexibility. Practicing asanas can help children gain back muscle strength, balance and flexibility. Asanas can also help children to gain more energy, which is something that many families say is an incredible benefit of yoga during cancer treatment.
A recent study completed by the Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota has shown that yoga is a positive experience for both children and their families, and it can reduce anxiety in adolescents and adults. Yoga has proven to be an enjoyable practice for both children undergoing cancer treatment and their families. It can help to improve their physical health, energy levels and stress levels. Doctors, families and children have reported immense benefits from this treatment. After cancer, yoga gives children the techniques to live a more fulfilling and aware life.
Jillian McKee is a yoga enthusiast and cancer activist. She works as the Complementary Medicine Advocate at the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. Her time is spent mostly on outreach efforts and spreading information on complementary and alternative medicine use in cancer treatment. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out @CancerAlliance on Twitter and the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance on Facebook
Watch this video of a recent CBS report on alternative therapies which assist children diagnosed with cancer.
Photo from Crochet for Kids Cancer.