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Cancer, sleep and yoga

As breast cancer awareness month comes to a close, I am finding myself recalling my maternal grandmother, who died of breast cancer that had eventually spread to other parts of the body. This cancer thing can be very scary, huh?

When faced with the news that cancer is growing inside the body, an array of treatment options present themselves. Chemotherapy, radiation, alternative therapies like herbs or perhaps even doing nothing. Therapies you didn't even know existed suddently come out of the woodwork. Making the right decision is personal, and it's very difficult to know if we've chosen the right option. Like all decisions and choices in life, we either make them with eyes open or closed, and then we watch and see the effect.

Many people survive, and for some, life now has a whole new set of challenges. Difficulty sleeping can be one of these challenges. While I do not support any type of cancer treatment over another, I do know that many people have experienced benefits from practicing yoga during and after whatever treatment they've selected for their cancer.

In fact, 30 to 90 percent of cancer survivors report impaired sleep quality after treatment, and a study reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology reports that yoga improves sleep quality in post-treatment cancer survivors, when compared to standard treatment for sleep quality. This is not surprising to me, since one of the most common things I hear from students, cancer or no cancer, is that they slept like a baby after doing yoga with me.

So what type of yoga helps with sleep? Generally, slow, gentle yoga with breathing and meditation are safe and effective practices for individuals who have difficulty sleeping. If you are someone who has challenges sleeping, I recommend trying restorative, yoga nidra or other gentle types of yoga that also focus on breathing and meditation. Try it and see for yourself

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