Sara asked Tari: Last week in yoga class you explained how yoga can help detoxify my body. This makes a lot of sense to me, especially when I think about how the lymphatic system removes toxins through sweat and urine. I want to do more yoga to purify my body, but I am not very strong right now. I was wondering if hot yoga would make me sweat more and help detoxify the chemo from my body faster?
(Background on Sara: Chemotherapy treatments for more than 8 months have left Sara weak and fragile. In addition, she experiences constant discomfort in her joints and neuropathy in her feet.)
Tari Answered: Thank you for asking me this question. I hope the answer will be helpful to many who do not understand what to expect in a hot yoga class. The answer is yes. Hot yoga will make you sweat more.
I wish you had asked me the question, ‘Would hot yoga be good for me now’? The answer is a very strong NO! Not because hot yoga is bad, but because it is not the best choice for you now while you are still being treated and until you are feeling stronger.
The word Yoga can be misleading. There are many kinds of yoga and not all yoga is the same. Certainly not all yoga is gentle. Hot yoga classes are vigorous and challenging. It is a method based on what is called, Bikram Yoga, using a series of 26 poses and breathing exercises in a room heated to 105 degrees. The purpose is to warm up the muscles quickly and promote detoxification via sweat. Classes are usually always the same. A similar style called Ashtanga Yoga is also a fixed set of poses linked by flowing movement and synchronized breathing to produce intense internal heat. One style uses external heat, and the other, internal heat, to produce the purifying effect of sweat.
Sara, I don’t think either of these yoga styles would be the best way to put more yoga in your life and experience the detoxifying benefits of yoga. However, I will offer you some simple guidelines and suggestions in finding the proper yoga for you while you are undergoing cancer treatments.
Things to ask and look for in a yoga class:
- Ask for a class description. The word ‘gentle’ should be in it.
- Make sure there are restorative poses included in that description. Restorative Yoga provides detoxifying benefits to your nervous system, as well as your lymph system.
- Before class, meet the teacher and explain your interest in practicing yoga as a cancer survivor.
- Feeling comfortable with a yoga teacher is the most important factor to putting yoga into your life as tool of self-healing and creating health in your future.
- Express concerns you have and ongoing side effects, such as; lymphedema, neuropathy, chemo ports or surgical drains.
- Tell the teacher you are in treatment. This is not a secret best kept.
- Ask the teacher if he/she has had specialized training teaching yoga to cancer survivors.
- Volunteer pre-existing health conditions to the teacher.
For example; high blood pressure or hip replacement.
Often those issues need more safety consideration when doing yoga, than cancer.
- Ask what the average class size is likely to be.
- Make sure the teacher knows your yoga experience.
- Trust your intuitions about the teacher and the environment.
- Have your doctor’s permission to do gentle yoga.
I want to applaud you for being curious about the different styles of yoga. Your goal to detoxify your body by doing more yoga is best found in balancing effort with ease.
Always keep in mind, that ‘the more peaceful you can become, the more healing you receive’.
“Cancer steals your breath. Yoga gives it back”