How to Practice Yoga for Cancer Patients

Practicing yoga can be beneficial to cancer patients, especially when the focus is on mindful breathing and awareness of sensations. Poses can be modified with props to help avoid injuries and achieve the health benefits of yoga.

Never compare yourself to others in class, or even the teacher. Everyone’s body is different, and rushing into poses that are too challenging can lead to injury.


A holistic mind-body practice, yoga combines physical postures, breathing techniques and meditation. Studies show that the practice increases strength and flexibility, balances body weight, lowers blood pressure, relieves anxiety, depression, fatigue and insomnia, helps manage chronic pain and improves immune system function.

Yoga also helps prevent or mitigate degenerative conditions like arthritis by “squeezing and soaking” areas of cartilage that normally aren’t used. The repeated movement in yoga also helps keep the spine supple, which can help avoid herniated disks and spinal cord compression.

Another benefit of yoga is greater ability to focus on the present moment. Many classes begin and end with restful poses called savasana or yoga nidra, which promote pratyahara, a turning inward of the senses to reduce stimulation and encourage calmness and relaxation.


Practicing yoga involves moving every part of the body in combination with controlled breathing. The resulting sequence of postures builds physical strength and flexibility. In addition, the discipline teaches you to focus your attention in a way that reduces stress.

Incorporating yoga into your daily routine is helpful in maintaining health and wellness. Whether you practice at home on a mat or in a yoga studio, consistency is key. A regular 20-minute session each day is more beneficial than a 90-minute class once or twice a week.

Yogic poses help improve circulation by increasing the flow of oxygenated blood to the muscles and joints. Some poses, like twisting ones, can also help prevent osteoporosis by “squeezing” areas of cartilage and allowing fresh nutrients to soak in.


The equipment needed in practicing yoga varies depending on the style of yoga being practiced. In most cases, it is best to wear comfortable, stretchy clothing that allows for full movement and will not impede your progress in the poses. A good quality mat is essential to ensure comfort and safety. Ideally, the mat should be a thickness of four to five millimeters to offer proper cushioning without being too “squishy.”

A towel is also necessary for wiping away sweat as yoga sessions can become very sweaty. A high-absorbency, fast-drying towel is recommended. A water bottle is also essential for hydration as the workout can be quite intense. Other equipment that can be useful include a yoga strap and block. These are used to help beginners achieve positions that they are not yet flexible enough to reach on their own.


Many new students are discouraged from continuing yoga when they can’t perform poses that seem to be effortless for others. While it is important to be aware of alignment and to avoid putting too much pressure on vulnerable joints, it’s also helpful to consider how a pose can be modified to make it more accessible for everyone.

For example, if a student can’t stand in mountain pose due to knee issues, they might use blocks on either side of their front foot to raise the floor and help them reach their feet more easily. This allows them to enjoy the full benefits of the posture without causing discomfort in their knees or hips.

For a restorative pose like Thread the Needle, you can encourage your students to place their hands on the mat instead of reaching for the shin or ankle. This changes the dynamics of the pose and improves balance while also creating a great stretch for the wrists.


Yoga is generally considered a safe form of exercise for healthy people when done under the guidance of a qualified instructor. However, like any other physical activity, there is the potential for injuries.

Properly warming up and taking it easy can help prevent injury. It is also important to practice in a clean space with plenty of room for movement and without distraction.

The most common yoga injuries are sprains and strains, especially in the knee and lower leg. Neck injuries are also fairly common, particularly if the student is practicing poses that require the head to be lifted over the shoulder. Joint injuries are another concern. It is important to always keep the knees tracking directly over the middle toes. This helps avoid the common knee problems that many beginners experience.