Photo courtesy of B4BC Team Rider Jamie Anderson
We’re all aware of the added stress that comes along with this time of year but we’ve got a solution for you: YOGA. Even if you only have a few minutes a day, striking a few yoga poses can help you re-center and get a few minutes to yourself during the chaos. Not only is yoga good for your mental health, yoga is AMAZING when it comes to cancer prevention. Check out all the different ways yoga can help your body and try out these holiday-inspired yoga moves!
YOGA STRENGTHENS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM – The goal of strengthening the immune system is to keep all of the body’s systems working together. It takes a village: Failure of any one system threatens the health of the whole community. Cancer therapies that seek to strengthen the immune system are increasingly proving to be helpful in fighting a wide variety of cancers. Research shows that yoga boosts immunity. A 2013 study in Norway found that regular practice of gentle yoga and meditation had a rapid effect at the genetic level in circulating cancer-fighting immune cells. Mindfulness meditation also appears to change the brain and immune function in positive ways.
YOGA DETOXIFIES THE BODY – Detoxification is the vital metabolic process by which dead cells and toxins (the flu virus, a rogue cancer cell, or another pathogen) are excreted from the body. Yoga is the muscle of the lymphatic system—the body’s plumbing and trash-removal system. Similar to how the heart muscle circulates blood, yoga increases lymphatic flow with specific breathing and movement practices. Inversions, a fundamental part of a strong yoga practice, utilize movement and body positioning to reverse the effects of gravity on our body, enhancing the process of cardiovascular and lymphatic drainage.
YOGA BUILDS BONES – How are strong bones linked to cancer prevention? Our bones house bone marrow, where new red and white blood cells are constantly being produced. White blood cells are needed to form leukocytes, our natural cancer-fighting immune cells. If our bones are compromised from a break or from osteoporosis (a side effect of chemotherapy), so too is the production of a nourishing blood supply and immune protection. A recent pilot study by Loren Fishman, MD, applied yoga practice to sufferers of osteoporosis (decrease in bone mass) and osteopenia (reduction in bone volume). The results showed that 85 percent of the yoga practitioners gained bone in both the spine and hip, while nearly every member of the control group maintained or lost bone mass.
YOGA IS WEIGHT MANAGEMENT – Obesity is a key, if not the largest, indicator of both cancer incidence and recurrence. In the United States, excess body weight is thought to contribute to as many as one out of five cancer-related deaths, and being overweight or obese is clearly linked with an increased risk of several types of cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends that obese individuals increase weekly exercise to 300 minutes per week to reduce the chances of cancer or recurrence.
Research on the impact of yoga on weight gain is still in the early stages. One study showed that yoga had a more positive impact on obesity and depression than aerobic exercise.
“Yoga is designed to help you relieve stress through the practice of breath and presence. Getting calm and focused at this time of year is literally a present for those in your life; they get more of you,” says Heather Peterson of CorePower Yoga. (Centered, happy you, that is. Not frenzied, frantic you.)
This series of holiday season poses was designed to alleviate some of the common stressors that pop up this time of year—from broken ornaments to endless gift wrapping—each of which comes with a cute name and yogis demo-ing in cozy outfits from the curated holiday fashion collection sold in studios.
“Holding a pose for one to two minutes will create a subtle energy shift and a gentle flush of blood into different organs and systems in the body,” she says, “so the benefits are still great even if you only have time for a pose or two a day.”
HOLIDAY TREE – Tree pose/ vrksasana
For moments when you need to get back to a place of balance or re-focus your frenzied energy. You know, like after your dog attacks the perfectly decorated Christmas tree.
CANDY CANE – Standing half moon pose/ardha chandrasana
For after holiday parties filled with lots of tasty treats, when you need to open up and de-bloat.
NUTCRACKER – Stand at attention/samasthiti
For calming the mind when you’re freaking out about having enough time to bake six different kinds of cookies.
POWER SHOPPER – Warrior 2 pose/ virabhadrasana II
For building leg strength and (both physical and emotional) endurance to prep you for lengthy checkout lines.
POINSETTIA – Rag doll circles/ uttanasana
For releasing tension wherever and whenever you need to, like after hours of gift wrapping.