Yogic Cancer Management

From Exploring Yoga and Cancer, Dr Swami Yogapratap

With an expansion of our understanding of the human being from the physical level to higher levels, comes the realization that the causative factors of cancer are not limited to the body but go beyond this dimension. The logical step from here is that our definition of cure needs to widen its horizons to include these levels also. For even if the disease process has not yet manifested in the physical body but is present in the mental or pranic or causal body, it is just a matter of time before it is experienced in the physical body. Hence, we will now look at how to restore normality to the physical, mental, pranic and causal dimensions.

Various causes

Cancer is caused by the presence of some unbalancing forces, be they physical carcinogens, repressed thoughts with a strong emotional content or chronic mental and emotional stress. When the mind plays and replays thoughts over and over again, it results in stimulation of the same patterns of neuropeptides which, over a period of time and due to their cumulative effect, lead to pranic blockages and pranic depletion in corresponding areas.

It is postulated that this aggravates immune suppression and a generalized debility of the entire psychoneuroimmune apparatus. In this state the body is denied the protective shield which mops up the errant cancerous transformations under normal circumstances. The continued presence of these factors allows mutational damage of the genetic structure (stimulation of oncogenes and suppression of cancer suppressor genes) to flourish.

Thoughts, emotional content and stressors can originate externally or internally. Internally, they can arise a) from the conscious mind due to brooding over certain recent or past instances, desires and ambitions or b) from the subconscious or even the unconscious mind from the distant past or c) even from the collective unconscious including from past lives. These processes collectively prepare the substratum or the field for cancer to strike.

It then takes only a small trigger in the form of carcinogens from the diet or other physical carcinogens to cause the advent of cancer. The lesion may then be maintained and fostered by the thought processes mentioned above, causing the cancer to become aggressive in its spread, resistant to treatment and, of vital significance, creating the basis for relapses of the cancer.

Carcinogens can either be physical or mental in nature. They create a strong impression in the cellular memory and over a period of time may result in mutational changes in the DNA of the cells which, if the circumstances are favourable to them, can escape the DNA repair mechanisms and the immune surveillance and become a part of the genetic material of the affected cells. These mutations are then carried forward in progressive cell divisions and may either progress or be rectified. If these oncogenic mutations survive and progress, they can lead to cancer. Under such circumstances progression to cancer may occur.

Yogic cancer management

Yogic cancer management aims to:

  • Block the action of one or more of these carcinogenic activities at various levels, thereby preventing a build up of the cancerous transformative processes so that they remain below the critical threshold level. This prevents translation of cancer predisposing conditions into cancerous conditions.
  • Bring about harmony amongst all the various dimensions so that there is a smooth flow of energy and the stress faced by the individual becomes a ‘eustress’ rather than a ‘distress.’ This prevents the immune system from being overloaded with signals towards which the immune system has to direct its energies. Thus, the immune apparatus has a better chance of attending to the cellular disturbances in the form of micro tumours and destroying them before they can cause permanent damage.
  • Boost the performance of all the systems, most notably the circulatory and the psychoneuroimmune systems through a variety of mechanisms. This improves their functioning and increases the chance of the system preventing occurrence of the disease. If the disease is already present, these systems are better able to manage the disease.
  • Introduce positive healing factors which not only neutralise the disrupting effect of the carcinogens (physical, mental, emotional and causal) but actively boost the psychoneuroimmune apparatus thereby causing reversal of the cancerous process.

The koshas

In the annamaya kosha (the physical level), there needs to be an optimisation and balance in the various organs and systems like the digestive, respiratory, cardio-vascular, haematopoietic, neuro-endocrinal, genito-urinary and others. This can be achieved by a set of asanas, shatkarmas and yogic dietary habits.

In the pranamaya kosha (the pranic level), pranic blockages need to be removed, deficiency of prana needs to be attended to and a smooth, unhampered flow of prana all over the body needs to be attained. This can be achieved by various practices of pranayama and the practices of prana vidya and prana nidra.

In the manomaya kosha (the mental-emotional level), the thought patterns need to be managed, the emotions need to be channeled and given a constructive outlet, and a harmonious blending of these two aspects needs to be attained. This can be achieved by relaxation and the premeditative practices of pratyahara, dharana and the integration of the principles of the yamas and niyamas in our day-to-day lives.

In the vijnanamaya and anandamaya koshas (the subconscious, unconscious and the collective unconscious), we need to tune in to the various impulses that originate there, propelling our thought processes, ambitions and drives.