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The influence of yoga and meditation on women recovering from breast cancer


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October is breast cancer awareness month, and many of us have been faced with this health challenge or know someone who has. I have had the privilege of walking with many women as they have moved through breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, which is not for the faint of heart, and is one of the most transformational journeys I have ever witnessed.
 
One of the most valuable tools I can offer to help women through this challenging time is meditation. It is one of the most potent tools I know that teaches us--directly and truly--self-love of the highest kind. It is this quality that we need to develop for optimum healing as we need to take care of ourselves and we need to love ourselves. We need to make ourselves a priority all the time, not just while we are healing.

Meditating gives us a place to return to, a home within ourselves where we can renew and rejuvenate. It helps us prioritize all the aspects of our lives and regroup, to strategically and lovingly re-aim our intention for a healthy, meaningful, love-filled life.

In yoga, we learn self-awareness. We learn to listen to our bodies and our breath. Through physical movement, breathing, and meditation techniques, we learn to respect and nurture our bodies--physically, mentally, and spiritually. If you or a loved one should face this health challenge, then yoga and meditation practice can help strengthen the body's ability to heal.

For example, a recent study from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center showed that breast cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy who practiced yoga tended to enjoy better health, have less fatigue, and experience less daytime sleepiness than those who did not. The study involved 61 women with breast cancer, and in general, showed a significant improvement in the quality of life for the patients. For more information on the study, click here.

Even a short yoga program including meditation, relaxation, breathing exercises, stretching, imagery, and physical movements can be useful for reducing the side effects that come with breast cancer treatment. What's more, there is also a direct link between yoga and meditation and improved self-esteem, which can be an important issue given hair loss and other issues associated with undergoing chemotherapy.

This age-old practice really works and the physical and emotional health benefits of yoga and meditation have been known for thousands of years. The research conducted by the University of Texas, along with other studies, shed well-needed light on how lifestyle changes such as exercise and yoga can help women with the emotional and physical challenges of breast cancer.

So during this month of October, in support of breast cancer awareness and in fellowship with women everywhere, I encourage you to take advantage of these ancients systems and gain a whole new perspective on health awareness, from the inside out.

And you can start right now. Just take a deep breath and feel the moment.

Editor's note: Diana Lang's column appears on Mondays. For more information on Lang, the relaxation expert at StrategiesforNurseManagers.com, please visit her Web site at www.dianalang.com.