Mind-Body Medicine Across the Cancer Continuum

By Melissa Aguirre, CIAYT
Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The risk of developing cancer is not uncommon, since there are nearly 200 diseases of abnormal cell growth. Many cancer research efforts include the promise of improving patient quality of life through multidisciplinary approaches for the continuity of care, yet patients often report feeling severed from their body or even betrayed. The purpose of introducing mind-body techniques into cancer recovery is to offer a vehicle for patients to reintegrate back into their bodies by advocating, nourishing and reclaiming their autonomy.

Mind-body medicine looks at shifting a pathogenesis medical approach to salutogenesis practices, which look at what causes health rather than what causes disease. This complementary approach, which allows patients to recover quality of life and health potential, coincide with rehabilitating. By introducing mind-body medicine into oncology, patients learn how to manage stress, regulate discomfort and realize their power of control regarding how they experience the present moment. Naturally, this invites patients to begin participating in the therapeutic alliance with providers.

Techniques for empowering patients into salutogenesis begin with introducing methods of mindfulness and adaptive yoga within cancer care. These modalities improve somatic awareness and stress management techniques. Stagnancy or immobility is a large problem for bedridden patients. Introducing forms of gentle, breath-centric activity that can be facilitated with patients in bed offers an approach to address pain management, improve circulation and immune functioning, and prevent further symptoms. Naturally, these techniques teach patients how to initiate their internal resources for self regulation and care.

Another element of utilizing mindfulness and adaptive yoga offers tactics for reframing negative feedback loops. Healing is often oriented in a “someday or one day I will get better” context, but patients must be present to rehabilitate. Mindfulness and adaptive yoga practices address what patients can do in the moment, transcending the “one day” perspective into the “in this moment, I can” thinking pattern. Furthermore, the art of returning to the present allows patients to develop resilience through patterns of redirecting the mind by integrating somatic interventions, all of which begin with inviting patients to take it one breath at a time.

Melissa Aguirre, CIAYT

Finally, teaching patients how to deploy breath intentionally has shown tremendous benefit for pain management, improving quality of life and reducing negative thoughts. Breathing is connected to the major systems within the body, especially the nervous system. Teaching patients breathing techniques helps them realize the impact of the breath on psycho-emotional states. Intentional breathing immensely helps patients endure the difficulties of cancer treatment by improving patient care and self regulation and reducing inflammatory markers.

Cancer is a devastating diagnosis for the mind-body relationship. Mindfulness and adaptive yoga provoke an integrative treatment pathway that emphasizes patient’s sense of well-being and self. By integrating these modalities, patients take inquiry and learn more about themselves, evoking a meaningful landscape of experience. Naturally, mind-body medicine invites patients to be with the complexity of the human experience while offering compassion and understanding to reclaim well being and recovery.

To learn more about Melissa Aguirre and yoga therapy, contact melmarieyoga@gmail.com or visit melmarieyoga.com.