Chemotherapy and other cancer treatments can take a toll on your bones and overall strength, so some patients are turning to chair yoga to boost their bone health and balance.
Things like bone health ‘seemed trivial compared to cancer’
We heard about chair yoga in this New York Times article, “Chair yoga for my funny bones.” The author, Susan Gubar, began practicing chair yoga after she recovered from a fractured pelvis following years of ovarian cancer treatment.
“I had no idea that cancer treatments put patients at risk for osteoporosis,” says Gubar, whose treatment included chemotherapy, radiation and steroids. A new diagnosis of osteoporosis and a vitamin D deficiency “made me realize how often I ignore health issues because they seem trivial compared to the mortal threat of cancer. Stress tests, dental work, cholesterol checks: who cares? Just dealing with cancer had been enough for me. Clearly that had to change.”
Gubar says she used to love walking but says she gave it up because she now walks stooped-over with a walker and has neuropathy in her feet (also from chemo). Her physical therapist and a friend from her cancer support group urged her to try chair yoga – now she’s hooked.
Small studies have shown that yoga may increase bone density in the spine and hips, in addition to strengthening muscles and improving balance, flexibility, stress management and self-esteem. Gubar uses yoga in combination with other treatments prescribed by her doctor for osteoporosis.
Chair yoga on YouTube
Gubar attends chair yoga classes in-person. But you can find several chair yoga flows online, ranging in length from 5 minutes on up to an hour (just remember to check with your healthcare provider before trying a new form of exercise):
- Moffitt Cancer Center’s series of gentle chair yoga for people with cancer
- Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s chair exercises and yoga for cancer patients
- Seated Yoga for Cancer by Sighle McDonnell, a famous Irish yoga instructor and blogger who has used yoga to deal with the side effects of chemo and radiation for breast cancer
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