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Some studies have shown that yoga can be used to control physiological functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, metabolism, body temperature, brain waves, skin resistance, and other bodily functions. This can result in improved physical fitness, lower levels of stress, and increased feelings of relaxation and well-being. There is also evidence to suggest yoga may be useful as complementary therapy to conventional medical treatment to help relieve symptoms associated with cancer.

Some patients' experiences

Positive feedback was received from cancer patients who had previously attended our yoga lessons. However, some Christian cancer patients had given up their yoga practice after receiving strong criticism from their church mates. Many people fail to see yoga as a program of gentle posture and breathing activities. Instead, they narrow-mindedly view it as meditative and involving the state of mind.

Which form of yoga should one learn?

Lately, many people take up yoga practice because there has been a lot of hype about it. However, I firmly believe that yoga is an ancient form of health preserving exercise and it is never meant to be a "commercialized" exercise. Some people learn it for wrong reasons such as showing their prowess in doing difficult yoga postures within a short span of time with the use of training aids.

New forms of yoga such as power yoga and yogilates that stress on the "athletic" approach and aerobic activities, are not suitable for cancer patients.

In order to achieve healing through movement, cancer patients must learn yoga from a dedicated and experienced teacher who is capable of delivering and teaching simple yoga poses and exercises. The needs of cancer patients are different from the others. Hence it is important for cancer patients to sign up for yoga lessons that are specially and exclusively conducted for them.

In the past, our yoga teachers had taught patients yoga routines that involved simple relaxation techniques and gentle yoga movements that were manageable and beneficial to their specific illness. Our teachers also imparted useful tips on how to stay calm and peaceful while coping with the cancer challenge.

Does it imply that if a cancer patient practise diligently, he or she can be cured of cancer?

I owned a video tape on "Gentle Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors". I noticed that the yoga teacher, Esther Myers is a breast cancer survivor. Ms Myers has been teaching yoga for at least 25 years. She contracted breast cancer and had her mastectomy done in 1994.

One cancer patient posed the following question to me :
"Why should I learn yoga when a long-time yoga teacher can still contract cancer?"
My reply :
"Certainly, a yoga teacher or a qigong master can still contract a disease, as many causes are linked to it. However, these practitioners will be able to cope and heal better."

Can you achieve healing through yoga?

I firmly believe that cancer patients with the correct mindset about yoga and those who have the self-discipline and determination to practise it diligently as a life-long exercise, will experience healing through yoga.

One should know that healing is different from curing.

In June 2003, a colon cancer patient shared with me that her doctor could not treat her anymore, as it was a Stage D colon cancer. Her doctor commented that she looked well and radiant but unfortunately her internal body was beyond "redemption". I advised her to seek safe and reliable alternative methods and to carry on with her yoga practice. At least, even if all fails, she will still be able to die "beautiful" and with dignity.

Beware of Yoga "opportunists"

I am saddened that the spirit of practicing yoga is undermined by opportunists who are now seeking every opportunity to tap into its business potential. As reported in the media, it has now become a multi-million-dollar business in the United States and elsewhere. Many students have sustained injuries after learning from inexperienced trainers.

I also received enquiries such as what is the best yoga mat to buy?

My reply : "If you trace the origin, people in the olden days, do not have the luxury to use a yoga mat. The practitioners practise on flat ground. Therefore, the latest commercialized products such as yoga mat, yoga special attire, and etc. are 'nice to have' items - money spinners for the 'yoga business'. "

Sharing - A Christian cancer patient practising yoga

There was this patient who would attend our monthly sessions but she skipped the one on Managing Cancer with Yoga on 30 June 2002. She told me that as a Christian, she cannot learn yoga and hence there was no need to attend this session.

In August 2003, she signed up for our yoga lesson. She told me that she was "influenced" by another cancer survivor, also a Christian who went on the radio to promote yoga. It was mentioned that a centenarian, also a yoga teacher; was delivering lessons to the public. She had chosen to learn from us because our fee was lower and it was a "one-to-one" session.

Until today, this patient is still practicing yoga. Hence we shall leave the choice to the cancer patients to decide what is best for them in their battle against cancer.

Practice Guidelines

  • Focus on your breathing throughout all of the poses.
  • Always move within your comfort zone. Be careful not to strain or over-stretch.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing.
  • Do not practise during your menstruation period.
  • No food to be taken at least 2 hours before practice and 30 minutes after practice.


Each cancer patient's experience is unique and what works for one patient may not work for another. Before you decide to try out any form of complementary treatment, you must first exercise your own judgment carefully and try not to trust someone else's recommendation blindly. You alone are fully responsible for your decisions and course of action.

Updated on 6 November 2004

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