Yoga for Cancer: A Guide to Managing Side Effects, Boosting Immunity, and Improving Recovery for Cancer Survivors

Yoga for Cancer: A Guide to Managing Side Effects, Boosting Immunity, and Improving Recovery for Cancer Survivors


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Using yoga to manage the challenges of cancer and its treatment

• Explains how to create a safe home yoga practice that addresses the specific physical needs, risks, and emotions of cancer patients and survivors

• Includes 53 yoga poses and 9 practice sequences that use movement and breathing to reduce and manage treatment side effects

• Reveals how current research supports the physical and psychological benefits of yoga to aid recovery and reduce risk of recurrence

• Written by a cancer survivor and certified yoga teacher

For those faced with a cancer diagnosis and the journey of doctor-led surgery and treatments, yoga offers a way to regain control of your body and take an active part in your recovery and long-term health. In this easy-to-follow illustrated guide, yoga teacher and cancer survivor Tari Prinster presents 53 traditional yoga poses that are adapted for all levels of ability and cancer challenges. She then applies the movements and breathwork of these poses to address 10 common side effects and offers 9 practice sequences for varying stages of treatment and recovery.

Sharing her own story as well as those of cancer survivors and yoga teachers with whom she has worked, Prinster explores how yoga can be used to strengthen the immune system, rebuild bone density, avoid and manage lymphedema, decrease anxiety, detoxify the body, reduce pain, and help the body repair damage caused by the cancer and conventional treatments. She reveals the research that supports the physical and psychological benefits of yoga as an aid to recovery and in reducing the risk of recurrence. Explaining how yoga must be tailored to each survivor, Prinster gives you the tools to create a safe home yoga practice, one that addresses your abilities, energy level, and overall health goals.

Through personal stories, well-illustrated poses, and sample practices for beginners as well as experienced yoga practitioners, Prinster empowers survivors to create their own wellness plan in order to regain their independence and their physical and emotional well-being.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781620552728
Publisher: Inner Traditions/Bear & Company
Publication date: 11/24/2014
Pages: 324
Sales rank: 98,242
Product dimensions: 7.90(w) x 9.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Tari Prinster is a certified yoga teacher, founder of yoga4cancer, former director of Women’s Cancer Survivor Program at Om Yoga, New York City, yoga ambassador for the Living Beauty Foundation, and a breast cancer survivor. Her work has been featured in the documentary YogaWoman and in Yoga Journal. She has presented at conferences held by Yoga Journal, Yoga Service Council, and International Alliance of Yoga Therapists and has published articles in many yoga publications. She lives in New York City and Vermont.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 6
Creating Your Yoga Practice and Learning the Poses

Yoga poses for cancer patients and survivors are not much different from those for everyone else: we all need to strengthen our immune systems and get our muscles moving and fluids flowing! Yoga for Cancer poses, however, are selected for their specific benefits to target survivors’ needs. Survivors can use many, but not all, yoga poses. Some popular poses should be avoided, or used only with great caution.

In this chapter fifty-three unique poses are provided that are tailored to the specific needs of cancer patients and survivors. Each pose is detailed with an illustration and description along with any benefits and modifications. My recommendation is that you fully review all these poses to better understand what options you have. In chapters 7 and 8 I have sequenced these poses to provide sample practices of thirty, sixty, and ninety minutes based on where you are in your treatment or recovery and the side effects you are hoping to address (such as lymphedema, bone loss, weight gain, anxiety, etc.).

Getting Warmed Up

- Starting to Move with Your Breath
- Arm Vinyasas
- Seated Hip and Spine Warm-Ups

Starting to Move with Your Breath

Pelvic Tilt
Sit upright with hands on your hips. Use your hands to bring awareness to the movement of the hips in this sequence.

INHALE: Rock to the front of your sitz bones, moving the front of your hips toward your thighs to arch your spine. Lift your chest and draw your elbows behind you.

EXHALE: Rock to the back of your sitz bones, rounding your spine. Let your head fall forward as you pull your belly back. Elbows move out to the sides. Repeat sequence five times.

Benefits: Breath awareness, coordinating movement with breath, spine mobility, hip flexibility, chest opening, releases neck tension, releases tension in upper and lower back.

Neck Stretch
Begin in your upright seat with your head balanced on top of your spine, chin parallel with the floor.

INHALE: Lengthen your spine, sitting tall.

EXHALE: Slowly lean your left ear toward your left shoulder. Relax the muscles on the right side of your neck.

INHALE: Reach your right hand actively toward the floor beside your right hip, turning your right hand so the palm faces forward and then away from you.

EXHALE: Lean your head a little bit farther to the left to increase the stretch.

INHALE: Bring your head back upright

EXHALE: Lean your head to the left, into the stretch.

Repeat the last two steps for five breaths. Then switch to the second side, leaning right ear toward right shoulder while reaching the left hand toward the floor.

Modifications: This sequence can also be done standing.

Benefits: Breath awareness; coordinating movement with breath; releases neck, shoulder, and upper back tension.

Arm Vinyasas

Cactus Clap
Sit upright with palms on your thighs.

INHALE: Lift your arms to shoulder height, bend your elbows to make a cactus shape, palms facing forward.

EXHALE: Bring your palms and forearms together in front of your face.

INHALE: Re-open your arms to cactus.

Repeat the last two steps for three breaths. Move slowly, following your breath. Then lower your arms and rest palms on your thighs.

Modifications: Forearms and palms may not come all the way together. Bring them as close as is comfortable.

Benefits: Range of motion in shoulders and arms, chest and upper back stretch, lymphatic drainage in arms.

Cactus Twist
Sit upright with palms on your thighs.

INHALE: Lift arms to cactus.

EXHALE: Holding your right cactus arm steady, bring your left cactus arm across to your right, twisting your spine to the right. Your forearms may or may not touch.

INHALE: Re-open your arms to cactus.

EXHALE: Repeat on second side, holding your left cactus arm steady and twisting left to bring your right forearm toward your left.

INHALE: Re-open to cactus.

Repeat the entire sequence three times.

Benefits: Range of motion in shoulders and arms, upper spine flexibility, chest and upper back stretch/strengthening, lymphatic drainage in upper body.

Seated Hip and Spine Warm-Ups

Seated Cat /Cow

Sit in a chair, cross-legged, or on your knees. Cup your hands around your knees or thighs, extending your arms as much as possible.

INHALE: Arch your spine, reaching your chest up through your upper arms, belly moving toward thighs. Pull on your knees with your hands.

EXHALE: Round your spine, belly away from thighs, head bowing forward, as if wrapping your torso over a beach ball. Press your hands against your knees.

Repeat sequence at least five times. If you are sitting cross-legged, switch which leg is in front and repeat the entire sequence an equal number of times.

Benefits: Full spine flexibility, chest and upper back stretch/strengthening, stimulates lymph system in hips and torso.

Chapter 7
Sample Practices for Varying Stages of Your Treatment and Recovery

30-, 60-, and 90-Minute Practices

This chapter offers sample practices based on various challenge levels and durations of time so that you can have the flexibility to choose different practices based on how you are feeling. They are designed to be effective for both new and experienced yoga practitioners. The individual poses you learned in the previous pages are carefully sequenced into complete practices. If you are a cancer survivor in treatment, in recovery, maintaining your new normal, or gaining new strength, these samplers are a way to structure your home practice. Or if you are a yoga teacher for cancer patients or survivors, you can use these sample sequences as a basic outline to help plan your classes.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Cyndi Lee

Foreword by Robyn Frankel-Tiger, M.D.


Introduction A Wellness Plan for Survival

Part 1
Understanding Cancer and the Benefits of Yoga

1 My Story

2 The Science of Cancer and Yoga

3 Applying the Science for Recovery and Prevention

Part 2
How to Build Your Own Yoga Practice

4 The y4c (yoga4cancer) Methodology

Preparing for Your Practice

Creating Your Yoga Practice and
Learning the Poses
Starting Your Practice
Taking Your Seat
Finding Dynamic Stillness
Taking Time to Breathe
A Moment of Meditation
Getting Warmed Up
Starting to Move with Your Breath
Arm Vinyasas
Seated Hip and Spine Warm-Ups
Warm-Ups on Your Back—Supine Vinyasas
Warm-Ups on Hands and Knees
Belly-Down Poses—Prone Vinyasas
Getting Up and Down
Building Strength, Bones, and Balance
Standing Poses
Sun Salutations
Warrior Poses
Balancing Acts
Rest and Restore
Restorative Poses
Savasana/Sunset Pose

7 Sample Practices for Varying Stages of Your Treatment and Recovery
In Treatment—30 Minutes
In Recovery—30 Minutes
Maintaining the New Normal—30 Minutes
Gaining Strength—30 Minutes
In Treatment—60 Minutes
In Recovery—60 Minutes
Maintaining the New Normal—60 Minutes
Gaining Strength—60 Minutes
Gaining Strength—90 Minutes

8 Poses to Target Common Side Effects
Bone Loss
Weight Gain
Range of Motion/Scar Tissue—Upper Body
Range of Motion/Scar Tissue—Lower Body
Constipation/Bloating/Abdominal Obstruction

Conclusion Cancer Steals Your Breath, Yoga Gives It Back

Resources for Survivors, Teachers, and Caretakers




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