Full Heart Yoga:  Yoga for Health and Wholeness

Yoga for Cancer and Chronic Illness

Yoga is an empowering discipline for healing and self-care, offering a range of practices that support physical, emotional, and mental health as well as personal transformation while facing illness. Gentle Yoga is especially supportive for people living with cancer, through all stages from diagnosis through treatment and beyond.  Yoga can also be adapted for heart disease, auto-immune and other chronic illnesses.

Practice can be done one on one with a teacher, or with a group of peers in a compassionate and caring environment. As a highly trained teacher, I adapt and tailor sessions to meet each individual’s and each group’s needs.  I also motivate people to initiate daily self-care practices that can deliver symptom reduction, stress management and relaxation.

Yoga is more than just movement and includes many gentle practices. Patients at all stages of illness (post surgery, during treatment, in recovery, remission, or end of life) can practice chair-based yoga. Yoga can be done anywhere ~ in a hospital bed, in an infusion center, in a waiting room, at home, in bed, in a chair, on a bus, a train or a plane. Even if someone has recently had surgery, is in active chemo or radiation, or is experiencing symptoms or side effects, yoga can help promote relief and ease. 

Gentle yoga practices can:

  • Reduce symptoms such as anxiety and pain
  • Ease side effects like neuropathy and lymphedema
  • Improve sleep and reduce fatigue
  • Promote healing and overall health
  • Encourage appetite and healthy digestion
  • Improve mood, well-being, and energy
  • Complement existing treatments and practices
  • Support lifestyle changes
  • Balance mind, body, and spirit

Evidence-Based Research on Yoga for Cancer

“Evaluation of the [Stanford Cancer Supportive Care Program] initiated in a hospital outpatient setting provides initial evidence of patient satisfaction and improvement in quality of life…. Over 90% of the patients using the SCSCP felt there was benefit to the program.” (Rosenbaum et al 2004). Clinical participants reported:

  • 96% reduced stress levels
  • 94% increased sense of wellbeing
  • 74% increased energy
  • 65% more restful sleep
  • 51% decreased pain
  • Yoga was their favorite supportive care technique

Individual Studies Suggest that Yoga for Cancer May Improve:

  • Sleep Disturbance, Anxiety, Mental Quality of Life (Dhruva 2012)
  • Fatigue (Bower 2011, Mustian 2010)
  • Pain Reactivity and Tolerance (Villemure 2013, Carson 2009)
  • Vigor, Hot Flashes (Carson 2009)
  • Depression, Negative Affect, Anxiety, Fatigue, Overall Quality of Health (Danhauer 2008)
  • Emotional Well-Being, Mood, Quality of Life (Moadel 2007)
  • Nausea (Raghavendra 2007)
  • Gastrointestinal Issues:  healthy weight gain, less diarrhea, less nausea (Culos-Reed 2006)
  • Sleep quality and duration  (Cohen 2004)

Leading Medical Centers Offer Yoga for Cancer Nationwide

  • University of Texas, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX
    “Research has shown that yoga and other types of mind-body practices, when incorporated into the standard of care, can help improve patient outcomes – particularly quality of life.”
    - Lorenzo Cohen, PhD Professor and Director of M.D. Anderson’s Integrative Medicine Program
  • Memorial Sloan Kettering, New York, NY
    “Our Integrative Medicine Service is designed to enhance quality of life through therapies that address the body, mind, and spirit, including… meditation… and classes such as yoga.”
  • New York-Presbyterian Hospital, New York, NY
    “We offer free classes to enhance cancer patients' quality of life through healing regimens that address the body, mind, and spirit. Beneficial complementary therapies include meditation, visualization, and other mind-body therapies… and classes such as yoga.”  

    "Complementary therapies can make colorectal cancer, its symptoms, and its treatments and side effects more tolerable -- and possibly even bolster the immune system for better recovery and healing."
    - Dr. Mark Pochapin, Director of the Jay Monahan Center for Gastrointestinal Health at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center
  • University of California San Francisco Medical Center, San Francisco, CA
    “Anyone can find deeper well-being and enjoy the benefits of yoga. Whether you are in active treatment or living beyond cancer, yoga can help to enhance your quality of life.”

    “Yoga has been practiced for healing, wellbeing and spiritual development for thousands of years…. These practices encourage deeper clarity, strength, and health for body and mind…. [and] offer a wide range of possibilities to make Yoga accessible for people in all physical or mental circumstances."

Yoga for Cancer is an Established Integrative Therapy in Traditional Health Care Settings

  • Indiana University Cancer Center, Indianapolis, IN
  • Moffitt Cancer Center, Tampa, FL
  • University of North Carolina Hospital, Chapel Hill, NC
  • Vanderbilt University Hospital, Nashville, TN
  • Beth Israel Hospital, New York, NY
  • Block Cancer Center, Chicago, IL
  • George Washington University Hospital, Washington, DC
  • INOVA Health System, Multiple Locations, Virginia
  • Mount Sinai Hospital, New York, NY
  • Mountain State Tumor Institute at St. Luke’s Hospital, Boise, ID
  • St. Mary’s Medical Center, San Francisco, CA
  • Virginia Medical Center, Boston, MA

Elizabeth L. Kanter
Yoga Therapist and E-RYT200, RYT500 Yoga Teacher
elizabeth (at) fullheartyoga (dot) com * 510.219.2872 * Washington, DC


calligraphy by Nellie Chao