CANCER AND YOGA:
Yoga and cancer therapy are synergistic, with the practice of yoga significantly improving tolerance to cancer therapy as well as improved outcomes. Yoga is slowly and inexorably incorporating into the psyche of the world as more and more people recognize that it is not just about odd body postures and bearded old Indian gurus. In fact, Yoga has been promulgated in Vedic culture as one part of the science of Ayurveda for at least 5000 years. The oral history written in the ancient texts suggest that the God Shiva introduced this artful science into the human conscience for the benefit of all mankind. “Mindfulness” is an apt description of one aspect of yoga. Performing yoga, one is submerged into his or her own body and self awareness of the breathing and effort until the incessant chatter of the idle mind is negated, allowing a more visceral awareness of reality to dominate ones thoughts. Or perhaps it is more easy to state that conscious thought is suppressed in the urge to achieve the best breathing rhythm or the most proper body form. When one is completely focused on a single desire the negative and self sabotaging thoughts evaporate allowing a clearer perception of reality to take shape. Dr. Nav Sharda has recommended yoga to his cancer patients for many years and has been a leader in use of complementary and holistic methods in cancer care in addition to the traditional radiation therapy and chemotherapy that he specializes in.
Applying the current model of science to the ancient science of yoga, we have many times observed and quantified some of the effects of yoga practice. One such paper looked at the effects of yoga on cortisol levels in depressed patients and demonstrated a large reduction in both depression and cortisol linked to the daily practice of yoga. The effects were larger than that seen with drug therapy (Indian J Psychiatry. 2013 Jul; 55(Suppl 3): S405–S408). One of the more positive effects with a reduction in cortisol is a increase in nerve growth factors, thus daily yoga indeed improves the mind and memory. Another effect is the enhancement of the immune system. Chronic elevation in cortisol suppresses the immune system, leading to increased infections and probable flare up of suppressed cancer. Rebalancing the cortisol levels improves the immune system and allowing our bodies immunity to recognize and destroy abnormal cancer cells. Yoga and cancer therapy benefit the patient by improving the immune system and reducing the chronic elevation in cortisol.
A comprehensive review article was recently published in Frontiers of Immunology (https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2017.00670) which reviewed many different published studies on the effects of Mind-Body Interventions, such as yoga and meditation. The conclusion according to the authors : the studies indicate that these practices are associated with a down-regulation of nuclear factor kappa B pathway; this is the opposite of the effects of chronic stress on gene expression and suggests that MBI practices may lead to a reduced risk of inflammation-related diseases. Neuroimaging studies suggest that MBIs increase gray matter in the brain regions related to emotion regulation, learning, memory, self-referential processes, and perspective taking. The most researched transcription factors are those that have been associated with stress and inflammation. The key transcription factor is the nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB), which is produced when stress activates the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) (11). NF-κB translates stress into inflammation by changing the expression of genes which code for inflammatory cytokines (12). Lower activity of NF-κB suggests reduced inflammation. Dr. Sharda believes that yoga and cancer therapy combined achieve better outcomes for his patients and the patients that are able to integrate this into their daily habits have been able to lead healthier and happier lives. This study is just another example of the many techniques that are routinely discussed at the Cancer Care Center in Las Vegas.