Table of Contents  
ORIGINAL ARTICLE
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 46  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 20-24

A novel rejuvenation program for cancer patients at Kaivalyadhama, India


1 Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute, Lonavala, Maharashtra, India
2 Centre for Yoga Therapy, Education and Research (CYTER), Mahatma Gandhi Medical College and Research Institute (MGMCRI), Pillayarkuppam, Pondicherry, India

Date of Web Publication22-Sep-2014

Correspondence Address:
Ananda Balayogi Bhavanani
Deputy Director, CYTER, MGMCRI, Pillayarkuppam, Pondicherry - 607 402
India
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Source of Support: The authors thank the management of Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute for administratively and financially supporting the Rejuvenation and Detoxification Program for Cancer Patients., Conflict of Interest: Dr. A. B. Bhavanani is currently Deputy Director of CYTER, MGMCRI, Pillayarkuppam, Pondicherry, India.

DOI: 10.4103/0044-0507.137843

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DOI: 10.4103/0044-0507.137843

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  Abstract 

Background: The modern intensive treatment for cancer leaves the patients physically and mentally exhausted by the end of it. There is great potential for Yoga, the original mind-body medicine, in such a situation as it conjointly emphasizes body, mind, and spirit, which may be particularly useful for enhancing patients' social and spiritual well-being. Some studies have reported the effectiveness of Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness as a rehabilitative and palliative therapy in various types of cancer.
Objectives: With the above background in mind, we created a 3-week residential program for cancer patients to empower them in their journey, "back to health." The curriculum was geared specifically for those who had undergone chemotherapy and/or radiation.
Methods: The program utilized the sister life sciences of Yoga and Ayurveda with a healthy dose of self-education to assist patients in their recovery from the devastation of cancer and its modern treatment. The modes of reintegration used in this program were designed to specifically address the physical, mental, and psychic (spiritual) needs of the participants. The curriculum included various asanas, kriyas, pranayama, mudras, and bandha, as well as chanting. Ayurvedic treatment based on panchkarma science was designed and applied according to each patient's disposition. An educational component was included to inform patients of potential carcinogenic factors in their life and to change their mindset and attitudes from victimhood to self-empowerment. In order to scientifically validate the program, physiological, biochemical, psychological, and Ayurvedic assessment of tridoshas was carried out.
Conclusion: Our special Cancer Rehabilitation Yoga program is expected to have several beneficial effects for those recovering from the aftermath of anti-cancer therapies even at 3-month follow-up. Subjective observations so far reveal that the program led to overall empowerment of the participants.

Keywords: Cancer, rehabilitation, Yoga


How to cite this article:
Majewski L, Bhavanani AB. A novel rejuvenation program for cancer patients at Kaivalyadhama, India. Yoga Mimamsa 2014;46:20-4

How to cite this URL:
Majewski L, Bhavanani AB. A novel rejuvenation program for cancer patients at Kaivalyadhama, India. Yoga Mimamsa [serial online] 2014 [cited 2017 Nov 17];46:20-4. Available from: http://www.ym-kdham.in/text.asp?2014/46/1/20/137843


  Introduction Top


The media worldwide is reporting an increase in the incidence of cancer, and the 5-year global cancer prevalence was estimated to be 28.8 million in 2008 with half the burden in areas of very high human development, comprising only one-sixth of the world's population (Bray, Ren, Masuyer, & Ferlay, 2008). Typically, cancer patients undergo extensive chemotherapy with or without surgery, followed often by radiation (Life After Cancer, n.d.). After such intensive treatment schedules provided by modern medicine, patients are physically exhausted (Life After Cancer, n.d.; Shaw, n.d.). Their bodies are usually subjected to a wide array of chemical poisons, which indiscriminately attack all generative cells resulting in physical exhaustion. However, the toll on the physical body is only one side of the coin as many enter various degrees of depression after completion of intensive treatments (Feuerstein, 2007). Long-term chemotherapy results in chemotherapy-induced cognitive dysfunction or "chemo brain" that may be due to restriction in blood supply to the brain, manifesting as depression, mental confusion, inability to focus, and loss of short-term memory (Life After Cancer, n.d.; Asher, 2011; Phillips et al., 2012). Such states often lead to a state of confusion and crisis in values in the lives of cancer survivors.

The mental strain on cancer survivors is often underestimated. After their allopathic therapy is completed, patients are told to go back to their "normal life" and are regarded by the society as "normal as before." This adds to the patients' confusion as it increases their stress of not being "understood." They begin to feel that their family and friends do not understand their depression, mental confusion, and display of lack of memory.

Yoga, the original mind-body medicine, is regarded as being beneficial in various disorders (Funderburk, 1997; Innes, Bourguignon, & Taylor, 2005; Khalsa, 2004; Yang, 2007; Sharma, Gupta, & Bijlani, 2008), and can be of immense help to such cancer patients as well. The practice of Yoga is therapeutically unique in that it conjointly emphasizes body, mind, and spirit, which may be particularly useful for enhancing patients' social and spiritual well-being (Levine & Balk, 2012). Some studies have reported the effectiveness of Yoga, meditation, and mindfulness as a rehabilitative and palliative therapy in various types of cancer (Bower, Wooler, Sternlieb, & Garet, 2005; Carlson, Speca, Patel, & Goodey, 2003, 2004; Cohen, Warneke, Fouladi, Rodriguez, & Chaoul-Reich, 2004; Coker, 1999; Culos-Reed, Carlson, Daroux, & Hately-Aldous, 2006; Harder, Parlour, & Jenkins, 2012; Wolsko, Eisenberg, Davis, & Phillips, 2004; Zhang, Yang, Tian, & Wang, 2012).

A recent review by Levine and Balk concluded that yoga benefits women's emotional functioning during and after breast cancer treatment, and causes decrease in anxiety and depression and enhanced cognitive functioning (Levine & Balk, 2012). They mentioned thus: "patients cite physical activity, breathing, meditation, and group support as particularly helpful components of Yoga." Practitioners of Yoga vouch for its efficacy and relative safety in a multitude of conditions. Yoga may be understood as a re-integrator of this complex, inducing a state of dynamic well-being, a state of health (Bhavanani, 2011a, 2011b).


  Methods Top


We created a 3-week residential program for cancer patients to empower them in their journey, "back to health." The curriculum was geared specifically for those who had undergone chemotherapy and/or radiation, and the program utilized the sister life sciences of Yoga and Ayurveda with a healthy dose of self-education to assist patients in their recovery from the devastation of cancer and its modern treatment. The first of these programs was held recently at Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute in Lonavla, India (www.kdham.com/cancer).

Modes of re-integration

The modes of re-integration used in the program were designed to specifically address the physical, mental, and psychic (spiritual) needs of the participants. Many studies have reported the effectiveness of yogic techniques, while the technique of silent meditation and chanting may enhance natural, inherent body, mind, and emotional healing processes (Khalsa, 2004; Levine & Balk, 2012; Carlson et al., 2003, 2004; Coker, 1999; Wolsko, Eisenberg, Davis, & Phillips, 2004).

Throughout the program, we adopted primarily the group classes pattern as it has been previously noted that such group Yoga classes provide patients with a community and a forum in which to share their experience (Levine & Balk, 2012).



1. Asana-pranayama-mudra-bandha

We used the following strategy for this module:

  1. Simple joint movement and warming up stretching
  2. Asanas
  3. Following pranayama





Bandha-Mudras: Three basic bandhas, ashwini mudra, and brahmamudra

We used simplified asanas and increased the complexity over 3 weeks, always being mindful of the following:

  • to meet individual client level of tolerance,
  • of skin incisions and peripheral neuropathy, and
  • of poor balance issues.


The pranayama also had to be modified according to specific cancer. So, those with colon cancer would replace Kapalbhati with alternating nostril breathing (Nadhi Shoddhana). These psycho-physical practices of Yoga enable participants to get to "know their bodies" better and create a positive sense of oneness between breath and body movements.

2. Chanting: Chanting is widely used in the Yoga tradition as it creates a sense of inner peace that is conducive to healing. When we chant, we are in the "now" and this induces empowerment as we begin to take charge of our thoughts, feelings, and actions (Bhavanani, 2011b). For our participants, we used healing mantras culled from different traditions. In the first week, the Ra Ma Da Sa from Kundalini Yoga tradition was used as it also provides a beautiful musical experience. It was noticed that even those who do not usually like chanting enjoyed the beautiful music and mantra intonations. In the second week, we switched to chanting 108 rounds of the Maha Mrityunjaya (Om trayambakam) mantra as this is traditionally believed to reduce the fear of death and create a sense of life and living in the individual. In the third week, we used 108 rounds of Omkara as the Pranava AUM has been documented to be useful in stress management and in creating an inner sense of relaxation manifested as reduced heart rate (HR) and blood pressure (BP) (Bhavanani, Madanmohan, Sanjay, & Vithiyalakshmi, 2012).

3. Ayurveda: Every morning patients had Ayurvedic treatment based on panchkarma science. The treatment was designed and applied according to each patient's disposition and was very personalized. It included cleansing practices, full body massage, steam bath, herb oil application, and three daily meals based on sattvic vegan diet. Licensed Ayurvedic therapists administered it under the watchful eyes of two Ayurvedic doctors. Ayurveda is viewed as a sister science of Yoga and, hence, we felt the integration of both ancient sciences can produce a better sense of healing and well-being in the participants.

4. Education: The goal of educational component of the program was to inform patients of potential carcinogenic factors in their life and to change their mindset and attitudes from victimhood to self-empowerment. As the International Association of Yoga Therapists (IAYT) definition of Yoga therapy includes the empowerment of the individual (Taylor, 2007), we considered this a vital component of our program and every afternoon, patients spent 90 min learning about Ayurveda treatments, yogic values, environmental toxicity, diet, healthy lifestyle, and yogic tools to maintain health and well-being. Change must come from within, and this was the goal, to educe such a positive change in our participants.

5. Therapy: Throughout the program, patients had access to Ayurvedic and allopathic doctors for any consultations if needed. Yogic therapy was also available upon request and generally the participants were eager to discuss their issues with chosen specialists. In addition, toward the end of the program, they worked on creating personal mandalas to help them find a new sense and direction in life.

Psycho-physio-biochemical parameters

In order to scientifically validate the program, we tested the following parameters with plans of repeating them at 3 months follow-up:

1. Psychological tests: Given that a majority of patients end up depressed after completing modern anti-cancer therapy, we used standard tools such as WHO Quality of Life, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Score (HADS), and Profile of Mood States (POMS). These are standardized tools that enable us to document the state of mind, levels of anxiety and depression, and understand the subjective feelings of our participants both before and after the program (Levine & Balk, 2012; Carlson et al., 2003; Cohen et al., 2004; Culos-Reed et al., 2006; Harder et al., 2012). Such tools are used regularly in both in-patient and out-patient scenarios to understand the psychological effects of different treatment modalities and, hence, their application gives us a hardcore scientific understanding of the subjective changes in our participants.

2. Physiological tests: We recorded the HR and BP both before and after the program. Changes in cardiovascular parameters such as HR and BP imply a better capacity to manage stress with a more balanced autonomic nervous system (Funderburk, 1997; Innes et al., 2005; Khalsa, 2004; Yang, 2007; Bhavanani et al., 2012). This can be correlated with the psychological changes, thus enabling us to understand the mind-body connections and positive psycho-physical changes occurring due to the program. We also noted improvement in the physical performance of asanas by both subjective and objective assessment done by the participants and instructors, respectively.

3. Biochemical tests : Standardized complete hematological analysis was done with liver and renal profiles. These tests were used to determine changes in red and white blood counts, hemoglobin, liver function, and kidney function due to the program. The psycho-physiological changes measured by previous tests may be corroborated with these to understand better innate mind-body connections right down to the cellular levels too. As the participants had gone through extensive chemo- and radiotherapy, these changes take on an important prognostic value and, hence, are vital to our understanding the benefits of this rejuvenation program.

4. Ayurvedic tests: The three fundamental humours or doshas (Vata, Pitta, and Kapha) were evaluated by the resident Ayurvedic doctor in the traditional manner. The tridosha theory of health and disease that developed during the late Vedic period (circa 1500-800 BC) is common to virtually all Indian systems of medicine. Tridosha concept has correlation with pancha mahabhutas (elements of the manifest universe) as well as triguna (inherent qualities of nature). Health is understood to be the balanced harmony of the three humours in accordance with individual predisposition, while disease results from an imbalanced disharmony.

Based on this structure, Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute has also started a full research project with a multinational research team from India and Canada. There will be three groups involved in this research: Group A, full residential program described above; group B, 3 weeks program of 3 hrs. daily yoga 6 days a week; and group C, control group. We hope to report our result within next 2 years.


  Conclusion Top


This paper was written solely with the purpose of describing the actual structure of the special Cancer Rehabilitation Yoga Program being carried out at Kaivalyadhama, Lonavala. We are still in the process of collecting data of 3-months follow-up. However, our subjective observations indicate that yoga has benefitted those recovering from the aftermath of anti-cancer therapies in terms of empowerment of the participants. This is likely because they are given the tools, which make them feel in control of their health and well-being. They arrived with long-drawn faces, often with a lot of pain and suffering. In the 3 weeks of the program, their faces slowly lighted up, their moods changed, their friendships become strong, and their outlook on life became optimistic. We hope to corroborate our subjective observations with the results of our scientific assessments in the future.


  Acknowledgments Top


The authors thank the management of Kaivalyadhama Yoga Institute and, especially, Swami Maheshananda for sparking the idea and supporting the Rejuvenation and Detoxification Program for Cancer Patients. They are grateful to Shri O. P. Tiwari for his constant motivation and supportive guidance. They also thank all the subjects for their wholehearted cooperation during the program.[26]

 
  References Top

1.Asher, A. (2011). Cognitive dysfunction among cancer survivors. American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 90(5 Suppl l), S16-26.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.Bhavanani, A. B. (2011a). Are we practicing Yoga therapy or Yogopathy? Yoga Therapy Today, 7(2), 26-28.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.Bhavanani, A. B. (2011b). Understanding the Yoga Darshan. Puducherry, India: Dhivyananda Creations.   Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.Bhavanani, A. B., Madanmohan, Sanjay, Z., & Vithiyalakshmi, L. (2012). Immediate cardiovascular effects of pranava relaxation in patients of hypertension and diabetes. Biomedical Human Kinetics, 4(1), 66-69.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.Bower, J. E., Wooler, A., Sternlieb, B., & Garet, D. (2005). Yoga for cancer patients and survivors. Cancer Control, 12(3), 165-71.  Back to cited text no. 5
    
6.Bray, F., Ren, J. S., Masuyer, E., & Ferlay, J. (2008). Global estimates of cancer prevalence for 27 sites in the adult population in 2008. International Journal of Cancer, 132(5), 1133-45.  Back to cited text no. 6
    
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