How Yoga Therapy Can Help

From April 8 to 29, 2013, the Kaivalyadhama Health Care Centre introduced the first three-week residential program for cancer patients: Beyond Cancer (then called Detoxify and Rejuvenate for Cancer Patients). Participants came from four countries: India, Canada, Poland, and Brazil, with breast, ovarian, colon cancers and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Three of the participants had finished chemotherapy just one month prior to coming to India.

The first few days were spent getting to know each other, getting accustomed to the local time and to our routine. By the sixth day, the cleansing on all levels started.

Early on a Saturday morning, I was awakened by one of the patients who was having a full-fledged anxiety attack. A few of the women were planning a trip to the nearby city of Pune and the anxiety was caused by the anticipation of the excursion. We sat and breathed through it, “Ohm-d” our way through it, “pranayama-d” through it and talked through it. When the doctor arrived, he confirmed that her vital signs were normal and that it was “simply” an anxiety attack. For the patient though the fears were very real and yoga had helped her deal with them.

A week passed and all the patients were now in the full swing of cleansing and working through their own issues. The grit they showed in facing often unpleasant symptoms and issues impressed me. The next Saturday I woke up early to see the ladies off once again. Since the previous Saturday’s excursion had been canceled because of the anxiety attack they were heading to Pune. The same lady came to me and said with the smile:

“You know, it happened again! I had the same problem last night. I didn’t sleep a wink and I am not sure what was happening to me, it is so hard to describe, but I breathed through it, Ohm-d through it and I survived to the morning and we are going!” There was a spark of victory in her eyes; she was able to manage and contain the anxiety on her own. “But it is so difficult to believe that it is all caused by only the mind!” she said as an afterthought.

Another patient was able to identify and resolve a long-standing grief issue, causing depression, by using meditation followed by intuitive writing. She received the answers, which removed the root cause of her depression.

For many patients, meditation, Yoga Nidra, and mantra chanting were a “first of” experience. Very quickly though they became aware of new experiences that these practices brought and the benefits they were feeling. During the last week, many “aha” moments, deep realizations and shifts happened for our patients. It was a privilege to watch them working through a mandala wheel of life, and in the process of finding their new ways and priorities in life.

It was also interesting to watch how cancer was stigmatized in Indian culture. There is a belief that those who have cancer must have done something wrong in the previous lifetime. This caused much public curiosity and my participants were watched very closely, with some degree of suspicion by other patients in the hospital. By the third week though, bystanders, other patients and staff started to comment on how much the women had changed. Their faces were lit brightly, the smiles were genuine, the laughter was contagious, and everyone was lifted in the presence of “the cancer ladies.”

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Here is what participants had to say at the end of the program:

“The program helped me to grow and explore myself tremendously. I have learned things I never imagined learning. I am in awe of the evolution that Kaivalyadham has allowed and given me.”

“The program brought depth to my healing process. Yoga Nidra is a very powerful practice. I think I’ll feel the full effect after some time.”

“I loved every aspect of the program. I look forward to coming again. Thank you for showing me the way to open myself.”

“This was an opportunity of the lifetime – I am glad I took it.”

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity to grow in a way I did not even think possible.”

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