Yoga and Colon Cancer

Image /Pavalache Stelian/Dreamstime Stock Photos

Yoga is numbered as the sixth most popular alternative treatment method in the United States. The exercises involve both your mind and your body and involve a combination of postures -- also called asanas -- thought control, and specific breathing techniques. There are dozens of different types of yoga classes to choose from including:

  • Astanga
  • Bikram
  • Hatha
  • Hot (hot yoga also comes as a form of Bikram yoga)

It would take a true yoga practitioner to explain each type in detail, but for beginners, it's enough to know that each type of yoga targets a different goal. Perhaps you want to improve upon your flexibility but already have superb stamina -- astanga yoga may be an excellent choice with its repetitive postures providing quite the sweaty workout. Research each type of class before signing up so that you don't discard this complementary therapy with haste simply because the class was too demanding or not focused at your level.

Benefits of Practice

There are many reasons why yoga is climbing the social ladder as an alternative therapy for cancer patients including its simplicity and ease of practice. Although most practitioners encourage you to take an official class, there are plenty of yoga DVDs and booklets that can help you learn basic poses. However, before you start any kind of exercise make sure you get the okay from your doctor.

Yoga may look graceful and simple, but it is truly a demanding exercise of the mind and body.

Science has found that yoga has many different health benefits including:

  • Decreasing heart rate and blood pressure
  • Relaxation
  • Reducing anxiety and depression
  • Managing weight 
  • Increasing energy
  • Decreasing chronic low back pain
  • Combating insomnia

In all honesty, you probably won't reap any of these benefits immediately following your first -- or even your second -- session of yoga. The health and wellness associated with yoga comes from practicing over time. The postures and controlled breathing provide an outlet for the stressors of fighting cancer and provide you with a healthy outlet and coping method for stress.

Yoga for Your Colon Specifically?

Not surprisingly, there is a specific yoga pose designated for your colon. Many of the core twisting, compression asanas claim to help bowel function, but only asana specifically targets the colon itself. If you practice Bikram yoga you may be familiar with the wind removing pose, or Pavanmaktasana. This asana is used to release tension in your ascending, transverse, and descending colon.

If you've ever spent time in a yoga class -- especially for beginners -- this position holds true to its name. The compression on the abdominal organs tends to force any retained gas outward (hence the name, wind removing).

It is a polite way of saying "this asana is going to make you fart". Whether or not this provides any specific health benefit has not been medically proven.

How to Complete the Wind Removing Pose

If you are familiar with yoga poses, the wind removing pose is basically the positional opposite of the child's pose. Both poses start on the floor, in the position of many clearing yoga poses. However, in the wind removing pose, you are lying on your back. In my non-yoga practitioner terminology, basically you raise one knee towards your chest and hold. Raise the alternate knee towards your chest and hold. Then raise both knees and hold. Many yoga beginners mistake this pose for a hip or gluteal stretch, but in its origins, it is not. It is an abdominal compression meant to clear the "wind" from your abdominal organs providing excellent gas relief with this pose.

On a side note, when my oldest son was a baby he had horrendous colic. As most parents know, colic is a byproduct of excess gas and upset in the digestive system. My pediatricians advice was to take my sons tiny legs and "bicycle them" towards his chest slowly -- basically I was doing the wind removing pose to my son without yoga knowledge at the time. The result? A sound night sleep for mom, dad and baby.

Sources:

American Osteopathic Association. (n.d.) The Benefits of Yoga. 

National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (n.d.). Yoga for Health

Continue Reading