This is another book that you absolutely must read, if you are a cancer survivor interested in learning how you can take control of your situation, or at least how you respond to your situation. And as we know, we cannot control the outside world. All we can control is how we respond to the outside world. But in this control over our response lies our power. AND, in this response lies the key to whether our cancer experience continues to be stressful, painful, and full of suffering, or whether we can transform that experience into one of peaceful acceptance, growth, resilience, grace, and joy — despite the difficulties that cancer brings.
Mindfulness Based Cancer Recovery is concise and easy to understand, but at the same time a profound and potentially life-changing manual on how we, as cancer survivors, can learn to use mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga to help us navigate this difficult experience. The authors do a beautiful job of describing how most of us react to stressful situations, like cancer, with fear, panic, and anger, and how this stimulates the stress response in our bodies and minds, starting us into a vicious cycle of maladaptive coping and negative emotions that just make things worse. Alternatively, they describe the possibility of responding to stressors with awareness and clarity, which allows us to recognize that stress response when it begins, and then engage healthier maneuvers to counteract it with the relaxation response. This then stops the vicious cycle of negativity in its tracks, promotes healthier physiological conditions in the body, and gives us the power to choose better coping strategies and move forward with balance and equanimity.
The book then gives us step by step instructions on how to achieve this new way of responding. Their program is an 8 week system, in which you learn a number of mindfulness techniques, yoga, breathing, and more. They relate some of the research that has documented this program’s success in helping cancer survivors feel better, have less mood disturbance, less stress, more energy/vigor, and more mental clarity. Who doesn’t want all of that?! All it takes is putting in the effort and time to develop these skills ourselves.
Mindfulness Based Cancer Recovery (MBCR) is a similar program to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR). If you love this material, I also recommend his book “Full Catastrophe Living: Using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness”. It is a much longer and more detailed work, so it takes a bit longer to read. If you prefer more formal structure, there are MBSR programs in many cities around the world, where you are led through the program with trained teachers.
Finally, as you may have realized, most of the techniques that are used in MBCR and MBSR are very similar to those of the traditional 8 Limbs of Yoga, as set out by Patanjali, and now practiced by millions around the globe. These 8 Limbs of Yoga are what guide my practice and my teachings, so you will learn many of the same strategies here at Yoga with Leona. Please check out the books, keep practicing with us, and see for yourself how these practices impact your life for the better.