How Yoga Can Help Cancer Patients

  • Updated: August 4, 2020

    Yoga is an ancient practice that has been around for over 2,000 years. It is a form of low-impact exercise that involves the practice of movements, postures, and deep breathing to promote a calm, clear mind and a state of relaxation. For those undergoing cancer treatments, cancer survivors, and their loved ones, yoga can provide a number of benefits to both the mind and body.

    Yoga is proven to be beneficial for many cancer patients as it improves circulation in the body and promotes relaxation. Although yoga cannot treat the disease, it can improve quality of life for cancer patients by helping them manage the side effects of treatment, including insomnia, pain and fatigue. It can also help with emotional and mental aspects of treatment, such as depression and anxiety.

    Yoga also helps the healing process by reducing stress. Stress can inhibit healing by keeping the body in a state of alarm and crisis readiness. In this stressed state, some of the body’s systems (such as the immune, digestive, and reproductive systems) are suppressed. When we relax, the body’s systems return to efficient functioning. Meditation, as a part of most yoga classes, can help the body return to this relaxed state.

    Yoga at Fox Chase

    Since 2012, Fox Chase Cancer Center has hosted a chair-based gentle yoga class adapted for cancer patients and taught by Michelle Stortz, a certified yoga therapist who specializes in gentle yoga. This class emphasizes the stress-reduction aspects of yoga and modifies movements to accommodate the limitations of each participant. Chair yoga can have the same benefits as traditional yoga, but movements are adapted for easy completion from a chair.

    Gentle movement, breathing techniques, meditation, deep relaxation, and imagery help to guide participants to an energized (yet calm) state of peaceful awareness. The class allows patients to spend approximately 60 to 75 percent of class time in chairs, with some choosing to remain in the chair for the entire class.

    According to Stortz, patients say that gentle chair yoga is an uplifting and relaxing experience. In addition, caregivers can also benefit from the class (either as a bonding activity with a patient or on their own).

    “Just putting your attention on breathing can help relieve anxiety,” said Stortz. “It helps bring you into the present moment.”

    Gentle chair yoga classes are being held virtually via Zoom on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 - 11:30. Cost is $10 each class. Scholarships are available for those who need assistance.

    For more information, or to register for the next gentle yoga class, please call 215-214-3940 or email Michelle Stortz at To learn more about Michelle and her work in yoga therapy, please visit

    Take a look at these chair yoga poses that you can get started with.