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Yoga and Cancer - Julie Friedeberger (continued)

Yoga Techniques


Relaxation helps undo the stress that is so detrimental to the immune system. It is an especially vital element in healing. In relaxation, muscular and mental tension are released, breathing slows down, heart rate and blood pressure are lowered and anxiety diminishes. Body and mind "let go" and surrender themselves to inner stillness and peace. These are conditions conducive to the repair of cells, conditions in which healing can take place. In relaxation we actively co-operate with our immune system and encourage our inner healing forces to work for us.

Breathing exercises

Breathing exercises release tension, replenish energy and calm the mind and the emotions. Our emotions affect our breathing: when we are anxious, angry or frightened, our breath responds to our emotional state and becomes shallow and erratic. The reverse is true too: the way that we breathe affects our emotional state. By becoming more aware of our breathing pattern and consciously, gradually changing it, we calm the sympathetic nervous system so that anxiety recedes and calm and balance are restored.

Shallow, restricted breathing contributes to tiredness, depression and physical illness. Relaxed, rhythmic breathing which fully utilises the lungs can help us to avoid and overcome illness. The simple breathing and stretching exercises of yoga are calming, uplifting and energising. They improve the elasticity and efficiency of the breathing muscles (the diaphragm and intercostal muscles) and replace poor breathing habits with more healthy, life enhancing ones.


Meditation gives us the opportunity to allow our thoughts and emotions to surface so that we can look at them instead of burying them. The simple meditation practice of breath awareness develops the mental focus, detachment and clarity which enables us to look steadily at the realities of our situation. Once we've looked at them, we can acknowledge and accept them, work with them and move on. Repressing emotions traps energy and increases stress; acknowledging and accepting them liberates energy and reduces stress. Meditation is a therapeutic process that allows the contents of our personality to surface and become integrated into consciousness. It is healing in the fullest sense of the word.

Yoga postures

Yoga postures work on our internal organs and systems, including the nervous system, as well as on our joints, muscles and ligaments. They influence our breathing, circulation, digestion and elimination, our mental and emotional balance and our energy levels; as well as our physical posture, strength, stamina and flexibility.

A lifetime of yoga has taught me to regard life's big challenges as opportunities for growth and change. My experience of cancer left me with a deeper trust in the power of yoga to help us face our challenges and heal ourselves and a stronger commitment to teaching it.

My yoga class meets at the Yoga Therapy Centre, 90-92 Pentonville Road, London, N1 9HS (nearest tubes Angel and King's Cross). Please telephone  020 8858 7286 to find out more. To enrol, please ring the centre on 020 7689 3040.

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