Oct 092013
cancer care

Exercises for Cancer Care


Cancer, like so many other diseases, has been eluding cure despite all medical research and informed enquiry so far. Skin cancer, lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, lymphomas, leukemias, thyroid cancer, endometrial cancer…, the march of cancer is unhindered and any measures have not proved sufficient to contain its advance. Millions of people die every year because of cancer. In the developed world, one in three people will develop cancer during their lifetimes. If all cancer patients survived and cancer occurred randomly, the normal lifetime odds of developing a second primary cancer would be one in nine. Cancer is expected to affect 65% of all people living in the Western world at this point in time, according to future projections. Right now, in the U.S. cancer is second only to cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death; in the UK it is the leading cause of death; in Canada, as of 2007, cancer is the number one cause of death, contributing to 29.6% of all deaths in the country. There are many modifiable risk factors and important risk factors for cancer include tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol, but the most significant risk factor is age. According to cancer researcher Robert A. Weinberg, “If we lived long enough, sooner or later we all would get cancer.” It’s therefore crucial that all of us learn about ways to handle this menace.

The Sunday Express published a landmark article in August, 2009, entitled ‘Oxygen Kills Cancer‘. The link between insufficient oxygen and disease was established by modern science a long time ago. Dr. Otto Warburg was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1931 and again in 1944 for discovering the cause of cancer. He said, “Cancer has only one prime cause. The prime cause of cancer is the replacement of normal oxygen respiration of body cells by an anaerobic (oxygen-less) cell respiration.” Once the level of oxygen available to a cell drops below 60% of normal, the cell is forced to switch to an inferior method of energy production — fermentation. The cell can never be returned to the proper oxidation system, and loses its governor on replication. It begins to reproduce copies of itself wildly, a condition we call cancer.” In 1952, his findings were endorsed by The National Cancer Institute. In 1953, Dr. Harry Goldbatt  published his findings in the Journal of Experimental Medicine and his research confirmed that lack of oxygen plays the major role in causing cells to become cancerous. Dr. Albert Wahl commented, “Disease is due to a deficiency in the oxidation process of the body, leading to an accumulation of toxins. These toxins are ordinarily burned in normal oxidation.” Dr. Wendell Hendricks of the Hendricks Research Foundation said: ” Cancer is a condition within the body where the oxidation has become so depleted that the body cells have degenerated beyond control. The body is so overloaded with toxins that it sets up a tumor mass to harbor these poisons and remove them from general activity within the body.” The evidence from research of these doctors is conclusive: oxygen plays a primary role in health and well-being. It is important to note that fear, worry and depression all interfere with free, relaxed breathing and thus reduce oxygen level.

Your nose happens to be a very clever instrument and can accomplish a lot for you. If you can breathe, you can be healthy! Yoga has a well-established palliative and supportive role and it is already being recommended to cancer patients by various hospitals. Pranayama or the Science of Breathing offers still greater healing potential and is a ray of hope. Ashwin, or the moving breath, is the physician of gods – thus goes a verse from the Vedas! According to Vedic scriptures, breath, if directed properly, can cure each and every disease. Pranayama, the science of breathing, has a lot to offer and holds a lot of promise. Physically speaking, 70% of toxins in our body are thrown out through breathing. So, breathing exercises offer to actively detoxify your body, optimize stress level, regulate lymph flow, balance hormones in the body, balance sympathetic and parasympathetic parts of the autonomic nervous system, increase nitric oxide production, stimulate pituitary gland directly, offer gentle massage to internal organs and even achieve much more than that…. In an effort to heal the chronic, intractable and so far incurable diseases, recent years have seen a surge of interest in the healing potential of breathing exercises as well. A lot of work is being done on breathing exercises and their effects in some parts of the world, especially India, and there have been reports of some amazing results though not medically confirmed. Scientists in the west have also been studying these techniques for decades.
To know about anatomy of breathing and how normal breathing works, check the link here.
According to Yoga wisdom, full oxygenation of your body and therefore your cells is quite simply the most productive step you can take irrespective of your health status. However, if you are experiencing or recovering from cancer then learning to use your breath more effectively is absolutely essential.

Benefits of Breathing Exercises

  • Be the healthiest you’ve ever been
  • Feel completely energized
  • A constant feeling of well-being
  • Open your breath and expand your life
  • improvement/ total control of symptoms
  • Reduction in dependency on medicines
  • Better stamina for just about anything
  • More positive outlook
  • Less stress, more balance, clearer thinking, enhanced brain function

It will be certainly worthwhile to check on the topics:

The exercises described in the last article are quite useful, effective, a good introduction to Pranayama, the Science of Breathing, and, once mastered, will help you learn more intricate exercises.

It is best to assess each cancer patient individually and then advise breathing exercises accordingly. The topic is treated more at length in specific workshops. Still, a few of the more important breathing exercises which can play a big role in cancer care are:

  • Bhastrika or Bellows Breathing
  • Kapaal Bhaati or Breath of Fire, and
  • Anulom Vilom or Alternate Nostril Breathing

These exercises can actually be used to control the autonomic nervous system, and support parasympathetic or sympathetic nervous systems. The parasympathetic nervous system, quietens the mind, and helps to bring about a state of more focused attention. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the ‘fight or flight’ response, or for keeping us alert. As you become more aware of your breath, you may start to notice when you are unintentionally holding your breath or breathing shallow. You also may begin to associate patterns of the breath with your moods or states of mind. This self-awareness is the starting point towards using Pranayama to help change your patterns and, through regular practice, bring more positivity in your life. Pranayama is a very deep, effective and profound science which is best learnt under the direct supervision of a teacher who knows it all well.

The best time to do these exercises is early morning, but you can also do them at just about any time of day, 5 hours after a large meal. Choose a peaceful spot, sans any distractions, to do your breathing.

Bhastrika (Bellows Breathing)

Bhastrika pranayama is all about inhaling and exhaling completely so that your body gets maximum amount of oxygen. In Sanskrit Bhastrika means ‘bellows’. Rapid succession of forcible expulsion is a characteristic feature of Bhastrika. Just as a blacksmith blows his bellows rapidly, so also you should move your breath rapidly.


  • Relieves inflammation of the throat and cures illnesses of respiratory track
  • Removes diseases of the nose and chest
  • Increases gastric fire
  • Destroys phlegm
  • Eradicates asthma, consumption, etc.
  • Gives good appetite
  • Helps to throw out toxins
  • Boosts the supply of oxygen and purifies blood
  • Helps to keep negative thoughts away
  • Increases warmth in the body and helps to prevent common cold
  • Regular practice of Bhastrika pranayama keeps you away from all diseases

How Often

At least once daily. The best time is early morning.


Follow the steps given below and learn to do Bhastrika pranayama.

  • Be seated in comfortable posture: Padmasana (crossed leg), Vajrasana or Sukhasana are the ideal yoga postures to practice pranayama. Place your hands on your knees. Feel relaxed. Focus on your breathing pattern and be relaxed.
  • Breathe in by inhaling forcefully through both the nostrils. Make sure that your lungs are full with air. Once you inhale fully, exhale with great force making hissing sound.
  • Bhastrika pranayama is done forcefully. You can determine how much speed to apply while inhaling and exhaling keeping in mind your heath and endurance.
  • When you breathe in while performing Bhastrika pranayama, your abdomen should not blow up. Instead your chest should fill up with air. Repeat the procedure for up to 3 minutes.
  • Those who have high blood pressure or heart disease should not practice Bhastrika pranayama on their own.

Regular practice of pranayama purifies blood and enhances oxygen flow.

Kapaal Bhaati (Breath of Fire)

‘Kapaala’ is a Sanskrit word; it means skull. ‘Bhaati’ means to shine. The term ‘Kapaalabhaati’ means an exercise that makes the skull shine. This Kriya cleanses the skull. This is one of the Shat-Karmas (six cleansing processes in Hatha Yoga).

Benefits of Kapalbhati pranayama

  • Kapaalabhaati pranayama stimulates vagus nerve, and through it, different parts of the brain.
  • Kapaalabhaati pranayama helps to detoxify lungs and respiratory tracks.
  • Boosts the supply of oxygen and purifies blood.
  • Tones up the abdominal muscles. Also helpful in reducing belly fat.
  • Kapaalabhaati pranayama is practiced before meditation. It improves concentration span and helps to stay away from unwanted thoughts.
  • A regular practice of Kapaalabhaati pranayama brings glow to your skin.

How Often

A learner can start with 1 round of Kapaalabhaati pranayama by doing 10 repetitions in each round. Continue this for one week. Increase it to 2 rounds in 2nd week. Then keep on increasing the practice according to your stamina and health. Take small breaks between each round.


Devoting some time to the practice of Kapaalabhaati pranayama in the morning is very beneficial.

  • Be seated in a comfortable posture. Padmasana (crossed leg),Vajrasana or Sukhasana are the ideal yoga postures to practice pranayama.
  • Place your hands on your knees. Feel relaxed.
  • Focus on your breathing pattern.
  • Take a deep breath in and then release the breath out.
  • Now inhale slowly and exhale with a great force. Your abdominal muscles should get expanded when you inhale and get contracted when you exhale.
  • The exhalations should be forceful. This exercise is similar to that of blowing your nose. The process of inhalation and exhalation should be constant. Make sure that while exhaling, you are throwing the air out from the lungs with full force.
  • Inhalation should be passive. Complete the procedure of Kapaalabhaati pranayama by deep inhalation and exhalation.
  • You have successfully completed one round of Kapaalabhaati pranayama.

Anulom Vilom (Alternate Nostril Breathing)

Anulom Vilom is one of the most effective breathing exercises to purify the mind and body. Anulom Vilom offers benefits in curing most of the internal body conditions and is very useful in releasing stress and anxiety. Anulom Vilom pranayama can be performed by everyone.

We do not breathe equally through our nostrils; one nostril dominates at one time. Left nostril calms down and right nostril energizes. By breathing alternatively through each nostril, we improve circulation to each cerebral hemisphere and create balance.


  • Revitalizes you.
  • Improves brain function by improving circulation to both hemispheres of brain.
  • Cleanses your lungs by removing stale air and impurities from the bottom of lungs.
  • Calms an agitated mind.
  • Balances the left “logical” brain and right “abstract” brain.
  • Encourages a calmer emotional state.
  • Improves sleep.
  • Great preparation for meditation.
  • Soothes your nervous system.
  • Regulates the cooling and warming cycles of the body.
  • Clears and boosts your energy channels.
  • Enhances rest and relaxation.

How Often

You should start with 5 minutes once daily. You can increase your practice slowly.


  • Close your eyes and relax. Sit in this position for a couple of minutes till you settle down.
  • Close your right nostril with your right thumb.
  • Breathe in from your left nostril.
  • Open right nostril and close left nostril with middle and ring finger.
  • Breathe out from right nostril.
  • Breathe in from right nostril, close the right nostril.
  • Open left nostril and breathe out.

This completes one cycle.

The duration for breathing exercises  given here is for the novice. Anything more than that should be tried only under the guidance of a learned and experienced teacher. For these exercises to be of any value in especially cancer care, they have to be done with proper selection of exercises, proper technique, in optimum proportion, for optimum duration, with progressively increasing depth, frequency and force. Any kind of ineptitude might prove unproductive or even counter-productive.

Cancer survivors and cancer patients should benefit from this set of exercises, but cancer patients, especially patients in advanced stages, do not afford that kind of time to experiment. To help cancer survivors and cancer patients, even the advanced cases who are ready to put up a fight, and to accomplish one of the sacred purposes of Pranayama and Yoga of preserving life easily and completely, we have a very well designed program ‘Fight Cancer‘ for cancer care, an extension of Dr Sahdev’s ‘Breathe and Heal’ Program.

A more prudent approach for patients of any serious disease and particularly cancer would be to take proper training in breathing exercises ASAP under a knowledgeable teacher and take full advantage of the available expertise without wasting any time.

Learn all this and more in DSBH Therapy workshops and individualized Yoga Therapy programs to help patients of serious diseases at SAVY Studio. Give us a shout, get information about the upcoming programs and register. We are there to help you!

Some of the important breathing exercises, which are safe for everyone, are taught in our regular workshops.


Join Dr Sahdev’s ‘Breathe and Heal’ Program today to learn this interesting, scientific and effective stuff, and much more! 

Learn all that directly under the expert guidance of one of the most qualified faculty in the world! 

Sign up today and live your life to its full potential.

Fix an appointment to have your questions answered. 

Please go to Contact Us page to email or call. 

Dr Jitender K Sahdev

Dr Jitender K Sahdev


President and Director of Teaching

 The Head of Faculty – Dr Jitender K Sahdev, in addition to being a Physician in Modern Medicine from India, is a Yoga Therapist, Yoga Teacher and Ayurveda Practitioner par excellence in London with over 51,000 hours of Traditional Yoga teaching experience and almost three decades of experience in Modern Medicine, Ayurveda, Yoga Therapy and other alternative treatment modalities. He utilizes Ayurveda and Yoga as stand-alone as well as complementary therapies for optimizing the health and wellness of his clients, for easing symptoms associated with disease, and more. He trained under doyens of Yoga in India for almost four decades.

Note : Yoga Therapy is best administered in an individualized manner though some generalized guidelines have been provided for all. You should check with your health care professional before starting this or any new therapy or exercise program or breathing routine. This is especially important if you have any pre-existing health conditions, such as high blood pressure, migraines or heart or lung ailments. Women who are pregnant or think they might be pregnant should consult their physician before performing any of the breathing or physical exercises or undertaking any therapy program.

The information contained in the program is not intended to serve as a replacement for professional medical advice. Any use of the information in these programs/ workshops is at the reader’s discretion, risk and responsibility. The studio, author and the publisher specifically disclaim any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use or application of any information contained herein. A health care professional should be consulted regarding your specific situation.   

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