by Jessica Hensley, LYT, RYT, Oncology Yoga Certified Instructor
No one is ever prepared when they face an unexpected change in their health. Our bodies, the home we’ve been residing in our entire lives, can suddenly become a very scary place. This is especially true when there isn’t a clear cause and effect for an illness or diagnosis. When our health feels out of our control, we lose a sense of security we have in ourselves as well as part of our identity.
Next Steps of Rebuilding Confidence
As we navigate what comes next – be it treatment, changes in lifestyle, or finding a ‘new normal’ – one of the most important things we can do is work to rebuild confidence in our body. This begins by recognizing that our body is a powerful partner in healing, recovery, and wellness – not a place to fear. Shifting that mindset is easier said than done! It’s a gradual process that requires self-compassion, patience, and a ready set of tools to keep us on track. Beginning or maintaining a LYT Daily Yoga practice can be a game-changer.
Daily Yoga Education
LYT is an opportunity to re-educate ourselves about how the body works. Having a better understanding of our own anatomy, the biomechanics of our movement, and how these impact vital systems within is empowering. It can begin as simply as taking a few deep breaths.
When stress, anxiety, fear, or overwhelm are front and center, our nervous system loops in fight or flight mode. Coming to the mat, placing the hands on the body and feeling into the movement of the breath helps onboard the parasympathetic response. Known as ‘rest and digest,’ these elements are key to supporting the immune system. Rest, which can feel elusive at this time, is essential to healing and repair. Healthy digestive function means improved absorption of nutrients and the ability to clear toxins from the body, directly impacting energy levels, mood, and outlook.
Alignment and Breathing
Alignment, key to LYT, also impacts the breath. Coming to the floor in a Reset is a safe, supportive way to start connecting with how we’re holding ourselves. Emotions weigh heavy on the body. With that, it’s common to carry stress and fatigue in forward rolled shoulders and tipping through the head and pelvis. Lying supine on the mat gives immediate, tactile feedback and aids in aligning the spine and opening the front of the body to help ease the breath.
As we progress with abdominal exercises, floor work, and standing poses, each step of the way we build strength, stability, and balance. Through this, we also work to incrementally increase range of motion. In breast cancer patients, for example, movement often feels restricted in the chest or shoulder area due to surgery or treatment. These patients benefit enormously from shoulder work in LYT daily yoga classes. They can begin in the Reset or against a wall and utilize modifications throughout to gradually realign and strengthen supporting muscles in the torso, ultimately returning to more optimal movement.
Daily Yoga and Medical Treatments
Cancer patients and those managing conditions with medical treatment also experience a host of short- and long-term side effects. These can include neuropathy, lymphedema, and cognitive changes. Women, in particular, are at increased risk of advanced bone loss after treatment. Weight-bearing exercise is one of the most effective ways to stimulate osteoblasts in the marrow that help build bone and may stave off further loss. LYT is an ideal way to incorporate body-weight-bearing work targeting the entire body through the flow.
These examples skim the surface of the numerous benefits that LYT offers. Above all, when we move well, we feel better. There are aspects of our health that will always be out of our control, but what we can control is how we respond and adapt to adversity and change. LYT is a highly adaptable practice that gives us a platform to safely realign, reconnect with, and rebuild strength in our bodies at a time we need it most. Ultimately, helping to nurture a more confident mindset to carry us forward.
If you are new to LYT or returning to your practice after treatment or surgery, be sure to have your doctor’s permission before beginning an exercise program.