Mind-body practices are powerful components of a healing program. Such practices include lifestyle changes, breathing practices, yoga, meditation, relaxation, visualization, exercise, tai chi, cognitive re-patterning, music therapy, chanting and psycho-spiritual work. Have a look at the sections below to learn how you can incorporate and benefit from mind-body practices as part of your healing journey.

—Mind-Body Medicine uses awareness, relaxation, concentration, and intentional redirection of thoughts and emotions (words, images, feelings) to influence physical health. The natural healing capacity within us is our most powerful ally in becoming and staying well. Our thoughts, feelings, beliefs and attitudes, conscious and unconscious, affect the physical body positively or negatively. Thankfully we have the capacity to choose which of these to focus on and nurture. When we are in healing mode, it is our responsibility to be aware of what our minds are doing, and to shift focus to positive mental-emotional states. This can be difficult when confronted with pain or fear.

—Mind-Body practices such as exercise, yoga and breathing techniques help us to make this shift easier. There is a reciprocal relationship between body and mind – as we think and feel, so we become.

A certain set of mental-emotional patterns were in place when you became ill. In a sense, then, you need to become a “different person” to be well.

“The brain and peripheral nervous system, the endocrine and immune systems, and indeed, all the organs of our body and all the emotional responses we have, share a common chemical language and are constantly communicating with one another.”   

– Dr. James Gordon, Mind-Body specialist, Harvard psychiatrist, founder/director of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine

Our mental-emotional patterns are embedded throughout the body. Our thoughts, consisting of words, images, body sensations and emotional feelings, are translated into the common chemical language of the:

  1. nervous system – via neurotransmitters
  2. endocrine system – via hormones
  3. immune system – via cytokines

Together, these thoughts, chemicals and systems inform our health. They act together as one integrated communication system throughout the body. Our neurotransmitters talk to our hormones and immune system; our hormones influence neurotransmitters and white blood cells; and our white blood cells and cytokines communicate with our neurotransmitters and hormones.

There are many predisposing conditions that make us more vulnerable to cancer. The good news is that many of these conditions can be addressed. Which are true for you and what can you do about it? How might you seek help?

  • social isolation, loneliness
  • loss or separation from your mother or other loss early in life
  • long term care-giving to an ill partner
  • disruption of the circadian rhythm (night shifts)
  • aging
  • obesity
  • chronic stress
  • chronic inflammation, which occurs with aging, anxiety, obesity, infection, toxicity[i]
  • chronic infection
  • childhood trauma or abuse
  • lack of sleep
  • anxiety and depression
  • suppressed anger
  • emotional repression
  • resignation

[i] De la Fuente M. Crosstalk between the nervous and the immune systems in health and sickness. Curr Pharm Des. 2014;20(29):4605-7

Various Mind-Body therapies are available to accelerate the healing process and help us to live with acceptance, calm, inner peace and renewed vitality. Find professionals who can work with you in the following areas, or explore them on your own.

  • Biofeedback
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
  • Relaxation Techniques
  • Visualization
  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation
  • Prayer, Sacred Ritual
  • Hypnosis
  • Reiki, Therapeutic Touch
  • Expressive Arts (Dance, Art, Music)
  • Emotional Freedom Technique
  • NMT/BodyTalk
  • Breathing Exercises
  • Yoga/Pilates
  • Tai Chi
  • Qigong
  • Support Groups

Certain attitudes promote healing. These are attitudes that are worth cultivating regardless of our state of health or disease. They are a good measuring stick for what is most important.—

  • We are relaxed and at peace with “what is” and with our past
  • —We love and accept ourselves and others and have meaningful social connections
  • —We have resolved internal conflict
  • —We experience self-appreciation, self-forgiveness
  • —We find meaning, purpose and joy in the moment
  • —We express ourselves authentically
  • —We are connected with our spirit and the larger whole
  • —We share our talents, creativity and resources and envision a bright future, or are at peace with dying

If you have been diagnosed with cancer, use this time as an opportunity for transformation. Take risks. Challenge yourself. Say “no” more often. Find yourself. —

  • After the fact, many cancer patients are grateful for the experience
  • —Cancer gives them permission to live their “unlived life”
  • —It brings the focus back to them, rather than the needs of the family or work
  • —Cancer can be a dramatic spiritual journey; it can decrease identification with the ego identity and increase one’s connection with spirit
  • —It can provide an opportunity to change partners, career, focus and attitude
  • —It can be a time of integration, saying “no”, and spiritual renewal
  • —It’s important to become a “different person” than who you were when you became sick. Change the thoughts, words, images, beliefs, body sensations and feelings that promoted the illness

Ask yourself – and write down the answers to these questions:

  • What is the new story that wants to be lived?
  • What beliefs need to change to support the new story?
  • —Does your environment need changing?
  • —Who are the people you like to be around, who support you?
  • —What are you passionate about? What gives you meaning? How can you use your gifts?

Mind-Body Medicine incorporates daily practices to retrain the mind-body, so it can express itself differently and lean towards exceptional well-being. These are the key practices in a mind-body medicine program:

  1. moderate exercise for 40-60 min
  2. breathing exercises or meditation of 11 min or more
  3. yoga/tai chi/Qigong 1 hour
  4. relaxation breaks, naps of 10-20 min three times daily
  5. emotional awareness and expression
  6. acceptance, gratitude, focus on positive
  7. meaningful work, with a sense of purpose
  8. meaningful, loving social interactions, and physical contact
  9. healthy boundaries, and the capacity and permission to say “no”
  10. 8 hours of quality sleep

If you would like support to incorporate Mind-Body Medicine as part of your healing, join us in a  Healthy Breast Foundations Program and/or the Healthy Breast Yoga Program.

© SAT DHARAM KAUR, N.D., 2016

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