Yoga for People with Cancer and Cancer Survivors

By Sherry Ogle and Mandy Gard; Students of Balance Yoga Lounge, Balanced Breath School of Yoga, RYT 200
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Whether for cancer patients or cancer survivors, the healing power of yoga has many benefits. Utilization of the various yoga tools - poses, breathing techniques, relaxation exercises and meditation, can provide successful methods for combating the physical discomfort of cancer and cancer treatment. 

As detailed by Timothy McCall, M.D. in Yoga as Medicine, cancer is included in a long list of health conditions that have been demonstrated in scientific studies to be benefited by yoga. Yoga can be useful to help people feel better, heal after major illness or surgery and to live better with chronic disease. 

Yoga brings together physical and mental disciplines that may help achieve peacefulness of body and mind. This can help individuals relax and manage stress and anxiety.


For those unfamiliar with yoga, the core components of most general yoga practices include:


Poses. Yoga poses, also called postures, are a series of movements designed to increase strength and flexibility. Poses range from lying on the floor while completely relaxed to difficult postures that may test physical edges.


Breathing. Controlling the breath is an important part of yoga. Yoga teaches that controlling breathing can help control the body and quiet the mind.


Meditation or relaxation. Meditation may help with developing mindfulness and assist in being aware of the present moment without judgement.


The Importance of the Breath

Cancer is a stressful diagnosis. Having reliable methods to help to calm and alleviate stress can make all the difference in feeling better. Pranayama, breath work, is an important part of yoga and an essential practice for calming the mind and body, especially as a part of integrative cancer care. Pranayama includes techniques that direct breath and energy. Breathing techniques, done as part of a yoga class or on their own can help to increase awareness, slow the breath and reduce stress hormones, all of which can improve quality of life for people affected by cancer.


Research on Breathing Techniques and Cancer

A study published in the International Journal of Preventative Medicine in 2012, titled Health Impacts of Yoga and Pranayama: A State-of-the-Art Review, shared, “A growing body of research evidence supports the belief that certain yoga techniques may improve physical and mental health through down-regulation of the hypothalamo pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic nervous system.”

Another study done at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine and published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, showed that yoga breathing techniques may improve cancer chemotherapy-associated symptoms, including sleep disturbance, anxiety and mental quality of life. One of the keys that the researchers noted in this pilot study was that there was a “dose response”—that is, the more that the subjects practiced, the better that they fared.


Exploring the Breath

Simple breath awareness can be a profound technique for moving toward the relaxation response, a calming of the sympathetic nervous system associated with the production of stress hormones. 

Before starting any breathing techniques described below, it is helpful to just observe the breath.  Explore the following elements of the breath: length, sound, depth, origin, movement and whether the breath moves through the nostrils or mouth. As thoughts and emotions arise, simply observe without judgment and let them go, bringing awareness back to the breath.

Techniques for people in cancer treatment should always be very gentle and mindful. Anyone with medical concerns should check with their physicians before undertaking any practices and work with a teacher who is familiar with cancer-related guidelines and precautions. Breathing techniques should be approached slowly and if any dizziness or other discomfort occurs, the practitioner should immediately return to normal breathing.

The following provides a very simple breathing technique.


Abdominal Breathing

Many people chest breathe without moving their abdominal area, so it is helpful to learn the abdominal breath as the first breathing technique. It calms the mind and body and brings awareness to the fullness of the breath. Begin in a comfortable position, usually reclining is easiest to start.

Start with a full inhalation through the nose and a big sigh out of the mouth. Do this three times. This is sometimes known as three conscious exhalations.

Bring your hands to the abdomen and feel the belly expand as you inhale slowly and feel the abdomen soften and expand.

Upon exhalation, feel the abdomen fall and contract. Continue this breath for a few minutes or as long as is comfortable, without any strain or discomfort.


Guided Classic Pranayama

To explore pranayama further, follow the link below to YouTube to experience a voice guided “three-part breath”, the foundation of all yogic breathing techniques to counter shallow chest breathing.


Three-Part Breath Guided Audio
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Yogic Breathing for Stress and Anxiety in Men


By: Rachel Lippincott and Beth Waage


Each year, yoga becomes more and more mainstream in American culture. The Asana practice of yoga continues to become accessible from studios to gyms and even workplaces. Yoga, in Western culture, though often emphasized as a more feminine form of exercise, has numerous benefits for both genders both on and off the mat. Anxiety has become the number one mental health issue in America (Adaa.org, 2018), and while women are more likely to step on their mat to ease the symptoms, the benefits to men are equally important and warrant further exploration. Asana, one of the eight limbs of yoga, can be beneficial itself for anxiety, but for men pranayama, or breathwork, can be a way to enjoy the practice of anxiety relieving yoga without the perhaps anxiety inducing pressure of tight shorts.


Symptoms of anxiety in men can include muscle tension and difficulty concentrating (Guy Counseling, 2018). In their guide to Yoga Therapy for Stress and Anxiety, authors Byron MA, Butera PHD, and Elgelid PHD PT find that, “Breath is the only associated physiological response of the nervous system that readily can be brought under conscious control.” (Butera, Byron and Elgelid, n.d.). While meditation may be the more well known yogic form of stress reduction, breath work in certain populations experiencing anxiety has been known to be more effective. A 2014 study at Stanford University concluded that breathing techniques reduced anxiety and the participants respiration rate, even assisting in the reduction of PTSD symptoms in the veterans studied (Brandt, Ford and Huber, 2018).  


While tight shorts can be appealing, in discussions with men with anxiety, nature and the great outdoors often came up as a much more relaxing space. The great news is, there is no yoga mat or equipment required to take your pranayama practice with you. Outdoor activities are a great way to relieve stress in and of themselves, allowing men to create space between the anxieties of their day to day lives. An hour long walk can have numerous benefits, but the brilliance of breath work is that you can feel better in as little as ten minutes with a bit of practice (Max Strom, 2018).


To get a male perspective on a variety of breathing exercises, we worked with four different subjects on their impressions of three different breathing styles. As part of our interviews we covered box breathing, alternate nostril breathing, and Max Strom’s 4-7-8 breath. We found that different men have different feedback on each breathing style, but from the three techniques we feel that a large number of men can benefit. Check out how to do each of these short breathing exercises below.


Before beginning any of these breathing exercises find a comfortable seat. Keep a straight back, roll your shoulders up and back away from your ears, and take a few normals breaths to settle into your space, indoors or out.


1. Box breathing
To practice box breathing, you will follow a count of four. Start by inhaling for a count of four, hold your inhale for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, and hold the bottom of your exhale for a count of four. Continue until you feel your anxiety dissipating or for four minutes to start.

Box breathing is an excellent way to start breathwork, and based on research can create an almost-immediate sense of calm. Mayo Clinic found evidence to support this showing that this intentional deep breathing style practice helps regulate the autonomic nervous system and lower blood pressure (Healthline, 2018).



2. Alternate nostril breathing

To practice this style of breathing, you will be closing each nostril alternately, and breathing in the opposite nostril. To begin, close your right nostril with the thumb on your right hand and inhale fully through the left nostril. Now take your pinky finger of your right hand and close the left nostril, exhaling through the right nostril. You will also inhale through the right nostril, close, and exhale through the left nostril. Inhale through the left nostril, and repeat this process for a few more breaths. See picture for hand positioning.

Similar to box breathing, alternate nostril breathing also helps to regulate the nervous system and lowers blood pressure. Additionally, this practice can help improve attention and fine motor coordination and performance (mindbodygreen, 2018).



3.  4-7-8 breathing

Place the tip of your tongue on the roof of your mouth, right behind your front teeth.

Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4.
Hold your breath for a count of 7.
Release your breath from your mouth with a whooshing sound for a count of 8.
Without a break, breathe in again for a count of 4, repeating the entire technique 3-4 times in a row, then resume normal breathing and activity.

4-7-8 breathing slows down the rapid, shallow breathing that can occur when a person is anxious or stressed. The steady inhale and hold allow for more oxygen saturation in the body, impacting both your body and mind (Small Footprint Family, 2018).  



With stress and anxiety becoming entirely too common in our day to day culture, breathwork provides a quick set of tools that may be used anywhere, from the yoga studio to your desk at work to the great outdoors. Breathwork can lower your blood pressure, regulate your nervous system, improve attention and fine motor skills, and increase your oxygen saturation all with just few minutes of your time. Stressors have been shown to have more long term predictors of mental health impacts in men, making the utilization of stress reduction techniques all the more important (The Conversation, 2018). The majority of men may always be more comfortable in nature than they are in a yoga studio, but yoga is so much more than a class-style asana practice. Try one of the breathing techniques above and see what it does for you.



Adaa.org. (2018). Facts & Statistics | Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. [online] Available at: https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics [Accessed 29 Apr. 2018].
Guy Counseling. (2018). 8 Symptoms of an Anxiety Disorder in Men - Guy Counseling. [online] Available at: https://guycounseling.com/anxiety-men/ [Accessed 29 Apr. 2018].
Butera, R., Byron, E. and Elgelid, S. (n.d.). Yoga therapy for stress & anxiety.
Brandt, M., Ford, A. and Huber, J. (2018). Study shows benefits of breathing meditation among veterans with PTSD - Scope. [online] Scope. Available at: https://scopeblog.stanford.edu/2014/09/10/study-shows-benefits-of-breathing-meditation-among-veterans-with-ptsd/ [Accessed 29 Apr. 2018].
Max Strom. (2018). Breathe to Heal – Max Strom. [online] Available at: https://maxstrom.com/ [Accessed 29 Apr. 2018].
Eimers, S. (n.d.). balance yoga lounge RYT 200 Hour Manual. Ankeny, IA: balanced breath school of yoga, pp.145-148.
Healthline. (2018). Box Breathing: Techniques, Benefits, and More. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/box-breathing [Accessed 29 Apr. 2018].
mindbodygreen. (2018). 3 Reasons Everyone Should Try Alternate Nostril Breathing. [online] Available at: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-12936/3-reasons-everyone-should-try-alternate-nostril-breathing.html [Accessed 29 Apr. 2018].
Small Footprint Family. (2018). Eliminate Stress, Anxiety and Panic in 57 Seconds. [online] Available at: https://www.smallfootprintfamily.com/4-7-8-breathing-stress-relief-techniques [Accessed 29 Apr. 2018].
The Conversation. (2018). Why stress is more likely to cause depression in men than in women. [online] Available at: http://theconversation.com/why-stress-is-more-likely-to-cause-depression-in-men-than-in-women-57624 [Accessed 29 Apr. 2018].


Trauma-Informed Yoga Training in Des Moines




The definition of trauma is fairly broad. It includes responses to powerful one-time incidents as well as responses to chronic or repetitive experiences, such as abuse, neglect, combat, unstable relationships and deprivation. It us up to the survivor to determine whether a particular event is traumatic.


Everyone experiences trauma... not everyone has PTSD.


Defining trauma with such a broad brush, makes it relatively easy to see that literally no one survives childhood without some exposure to trauma. Science has demonstrated that the human nervous system undergoes changes when exposed to traumatic events, yet the vast majority of us have never been taught tools for self-regulation that we can turn to when we become triggered into our past experience of trauma.

TIYT is a comprehensive training program that guides yoga therapists, mental health professionals, yoga instructors, and body workers to greater understanding of traumatic experience (in the body, mind and spirit) with the intention of creating greater focus on positive life changes that can emerge from the experience of trauma. If traumatic experience is common to all who age past childhood, then trauma-informed training offers, not only tools for survival, but opportunities and practices to create positive life changes. Resilience forms when the perspective shifts from, “this is what’s wrong with me,” to “this is something that happened to me."


Mental health practitioners familiar with yoga and interested in incorporating trauma-informed yogic movement and contemplative tools into their clinical practice will learn body-based trauma treatment rooted in neurophysiological principles, the polyvagal nerve theory, yoga therapy techniques, and TIYT™ methodology. There will be a strong emphasis on learning how to specialize and teach various populations with unresolved trauma in treatment centers, hospitals, wellness programs, prisons, and private practice. (APA CEs available- see additional information below)


Registration is now open for the Des Moines training, July 16-21. The training is divided into two individual modules: Earth (July 16-18) and Water (July 19-21). Further study is available through online modules to become a certified Overcoming Anxiety clinic facilitator.



EARTH Module, Level 1 Mon-Wed | July 16- July 18 7AM-5:30PM $459

WATER Module, Level 2 Thur-Sat, July 19- 20, 7AM-5:30PM July  21, 8AM – 1PM $459



                                                      Discounted price for both modules $868 



EARTH. This training teaches Trauma Informed Care practices as they apply to teaching public Yoga classes. Trauma Informed Yoga Teaching requires awareness of the consequences of trauma and adversity, and an understanding that there is a potential for Yoga practitioners to re-experience post-trauma symptoms while practicing Yoga. The focus of this training is teaching how to create a safe space, to prevent negative responses to Yoga practice in a public setting, recognition of issues and troubleshooting if such an event occurs. Time is also dedicated to an introduction of Interpersonal neurobiology, neuropsychology as it applies to Yoga practices, self-care, and deepening personal practice. For more info: click here

Prerequisite: Yoga experience as a practitioner (2 years preferred) AND: RYT 200/500 OR currently enrolled in YTT, OR C-IAYT, OR Licensed Mental Health Professional OR Allied Health Partner OR Licensed Massage Therapist

Certification: Introduction to Trauma-Informed Yoga


WATER. This training is designed to teach the TIYT™ methodology to Yoga, allied health, and mental health professionals who are presently working with, or interested in working with clients who suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Panic Disorder (PD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and/or acute cumulative stress; in Yoga Therapy terms, all are fluctuations of the mind (vá¹›ttis). The focus of the training is practical applications of ancient yoga psychology, philosophy and practices as well as the Polyvagal Nerve theory, Somathesis and other neurophysiological principles. This methodology is currently employed in hospitals, in-patient psychiatric units, addiction recovery programs, schools, healthcare facilities, Yoga studios, and prisons as stand-alone programs and as a complementary modality in an integrative healthcare setting. For more info: click here

Prerequisite: RYT 200/500 AND 100 hrs minimum teaching experience AND completion of EARTH module.

Certification: Advanced Trauma-Informed Yoga Therapy


Click Here to reserve your space and submit tuition

Learn more about Sundara Yoga Therapy

Email: info@balanceyogalounge.com

Registration Process:
1. Pay tuition through balance yoga lounge website
2. complete online application for TIYT training: sundarayogatherapy.com 
3. If application is denied, tuition is refunded.

Both modules will be held at the Ramada Inn, 133 SE Delaware Ave, Ankeny, IA 50021 (515-964-1717)  Discounted room rates available by mentioning the TIYT training and balance yoga lounge.

Continuing Education Credits & Credits Available
APA American Psychological Association: National pre-approval Provider for Continuing Education Credits for six APA Continuing Education credits.
Inner Peace Yoga Therapy Certification: This training counts as elective credits in the 800hr Professional Yoga Therapist Certification.
Integrative Yoga Therapy Certifications: This training can count as either Module 3 transfer credit in the 500hr Advanced Teacher of Therapeutic Yoga program, or as Module 5 credit in the 800 hour Professional Yoga Therapist Certification.
Yoga Alliance: 25 Yoga Alliance CEUs
Marriage & Family Therapists: Pre-approved as a Provider for Continuing Education Credits for the state of Texas.
Social Workers: Pre-approved as a Provider for Continuing Education Credits for Social Workers in the state of Texas.
Professional Counselors: Pre-approved as a Provider for Continuing Education Credits for Professional Counselors in the state of Texas.

Additional Expenses
1) Required reading (estimated cost: less than $34) The reading list is given after registration is completed.
2) For out-of-town participants: Accommodations/Meals are not included in the tuition. Participants are responsible for making their own arrangements. We make every effort to work with our hosting venues to offer discounted group rates at a local hotel. We cannot guarantee discounts. More information is provided after registration is completed.