Have you heard of Yoga Nidra? Nidra is an ancient form of yoga that is rejuvenating and promotes restoring the balance within – two things that are incredibly important when you, or a loved one, are going through cancer.
With the help of Kanan Thakerar, Director of Kanan Yoga Bliss and Yoga Nidra teacher, we will explore the benefits of Yoga Nidra when going through cancer. As a practice, it holds value for both those who have been diagnosed with cancer (and are coping with the symptoms and side effects) and those who are supporting someone through a diagnosis.
What is Yoga Nidra?
Nidra is a gentle but powerful form of yoga that doesn’t involve any poses (asanas) and promotes a deep sleep state that allows both mental and physical health to be restored and transformed.
It is the perfect practise for those going through cancer because it is accessible to everyone, no matter where your physical fitness may be. It involves lying down as a teacher guides you through the guided meditation, allowing you to access a deeper state of awareness and internal transformation.
Cancer can be a confusing and emotional time, and something that you may not feel ready to face. A practise that allows you to fully switch off and process the emotional impact that cancer has can do wonders for your mental well-being. For those who struggle with regular mindfulness and meditation, Yoga Nidra is a way to give yourself, your mind and your body, the opportunity to slow down and reset.
Why Nidra for Cancer?
When going through cancer, Yoga Nidra can be practised alongside conventional treatments. It works by getting the mind to remember ‘good times’ and encouraging the body to change course, returning to a healthier state. Yoga Nidra pulls on the patient’s efforts to get healthy, which is what makes it so effective.
Throughout a Yoga Nidra session, the teacher guides those taking part through a meditation that allows them to access any feelings or emotions that may have been repressed into the subconscious and allows the person to work through them. Releasing these repressions can be vital in helping the body work through trauma.
Nidra can also be beneficial for those going through cancer because it allows them to visualise their bodies in a ‘healthy’ state. They are given the tools to picture themselves getting better, their tumours shrinking or their treatment working with the desired effect. It offers a sense of control and allows people the chance to tap into their own internal healing power.
Yoga Nidra also empowers those going through cancer to remain hopeful. There is no denying that going through cancer can be incredibly emotionally draining and it’s completely normal to have days where you feel like giving up. Yoga Nidra gives people the opportunity to practise Sankalpa, which is the building up of willpower and optimism, and truly tap into a positive mindset, away from the pressures and stresses of day-to-day life with cancer.
Based in London, Kanan is a trained Yoga Nidra instructor living in London. In 2013, she had a high-flying career working for a leading airline, busy social life and her own training business. She was unstoppable.
Then her body just stopped. Unannounced, her immune system started to shut down, and she lost her ability to function at all. To recover, she was forced to pause and take self-care seriously. She was diagnosed with Aerotoxic Syndrome and my prognosis was poor.
This was when she found Yoga Nidra. Drawn in by the fact that it wasn’t a physically strenuous practice, she found it extremely calming. After each session, Kanan noticed how deeply rested and restored she felt, so she started practising more and more.
Each session she kept her Sankalpa (intention) the same – ‘I am healthy’. In 8 weeks of doing the practise up to 3 times a week, she noticed a significant difference in her mindset, overall wellbeing and in most of her symptoms. She was able to walk 20 blocks and was much happier. Nidra helped her to release and detox her body mentally, physically and emotionally.
As well as having faced health challenges of her own, Kanan also knows what it’s like to support a loved one going through cancer. Her mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer and Kanan has been her support system throughout. She understands the impact a cancer diagnosis can have on the people around the patient and is a big advocate for carers and loved ones to also try Nidra as a way of supporting themselves.
As the saying goes, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’, and Yoga Nidra offers both the diagnosed and those supporting them the chance to do something together that supports their wellbeing.
If you’re interested in learning more or want to try Yoga Nidra for yourself, you can do so via Kanan’s website.