Blog Section

Prevention of Cancer – 13 – Physical activity, Yog

Prevention of Cancer PART – 13

(All the articles published in past are available at

Question:  In last part, we discussed some very important points 1. Good immunity is a result of holistic health. Not just some supplement to boost immunity. 2. Immunotherapy role in treatment of cancer. 3. Role of exercise in cancer prevention, not just for fitness or cardiovascular health. 4. More importantly, many other physical activities provide same benefit without formal exercise. And these are much easier to incorporate in daily life and to sustain. Most people cannot continue formal exercise long term. 5. Physical activity only on weekend also is protective. 6. Exercise in school and college days has protective effect even in adulthood, independent of exercise in adulthood.

Last few points were very provocative and otherwise difficult to believe. But you did provide strong evidence for the same, in terms of large published studies in peer reviewed journals. And those studies were very heartening to note for many people who cannot find time and resources for daily formal exercise. But they can still derive same benefit from being physically active in so many other ways. Like walk to work or shopping, daily chores at home, take stairs in place of elevators, sports, dance, walk for leisure, gardening etc

Ans: Yes. As we discussed in last part, Aahar Vihar and Vichar all 3 are main pillars of good health, including cancer prevention. Vihar includes primarily what we do physically. This mainly includes activity and rest. Posture, sexual activity, sleep, breathing, talking all can be included in Vihar. For example, our posture also affects our health. Posture determines position of diaphragm, nerves coming out of spinal cord etc. Yog and Ayurved place a lot of importance of upright posture, position in sleep etc. For example, we mentioned earlier about studies showing less reflux if you sleep in left lateral position. Post meal few minutes walk, sleeping in left lateral position, avoiding lying flat are some of the common advice by elders. Additionally, even at night, lying flat on abdomen for example is considered unhealthy as per our traditional knowledge. This comes from understanding of science of diaphragm, stomach and other organs.

Que: Fascinating. Never thought of these points as so important. I suppose sitting cross legged during meals is also part of traditional science advice.

Ans: Yes. That allows better digestion. One of the reasons could be better blood flow to abdominal organs, but I am sure Yogic science is much more refined than that. Position of various organs and nerves would also have impact on digestive function.

However, perhaps the most important and substantial contribution of Yog is understanding of breathing. How breath control is connected to Health is so well studied in Yog. We all know that breath and mind are well connected. For example, it is perhaps impossible to be very angry and be taking very slow deep breaths at the same time!!! Yog has refined this knowledge so well. For example, deep breathing, alternate nostril breathing, holding breath, fast breathing and various combinations permutations of breathing techniques; breathing in different positions, in different numbers… All of them have different effects on health.

As of now, I am not aware of study of Pranayam (breathing techniques in Yog) in cancer prevention. But one can easily imagine that a powerful technique like this would have substantial impact on health. Many people in India practice this in varying forms and degree and have derived substantial benefits in fitness, digestion, sleep, breathing, health of ear nose and throat, peace of mind and much more. These obviously have an impact on holistic health. And we have seen multiple times so far in large studies that holistic health is connected to prevention of most common diseases including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, hormone imbalance, infertility, sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression, digestive problems…

Que: Basically all of Yog can be considered an important part of physical activity or a very refined form of exercise. Right?

Ans: Right but incomplete. Yog and Ayurved have given us a complete healthy lifestyle. Means it is not just an exercise, but a way of living. For example, timing of daily routine, how you sit, eat, sleep, have sex, how you breath, how you talk, how you maintain hygiene, pregnancy and postpartum period management and much more. This encompasses whole life, from childhood to elderly. And even what do you do in different seasons. For example, doing more exercise in winter, and eating heavier foods versus light exercise and fasting in monsoon. Who taught us these things???

Yog is also an exercise, but not just exercise.

And we are not going deep at all. Most commonly known form of Yog i.e. Ashtangyog has eight parts. Asanas and Pranayam are only two parts. What are the other six parts???

Que: Really? I thought Yog is only asanas, pranayama, and meditation. What else is there?

Ans: This is not the forum to talk about Yog. But would you believe if Hygiene is included in one of the remaining six parts (as a sub division)?

And of course a lot of focus on third pillar of health i.e. VICHAR. Yog principle is that Mind Body Spirit all are interconnected, and each can be influenced by other. Something we are learning today in modern medicine briefly. Remember we spoke about how Brain Gut Microbiota axis – body and mind connection!!!

December 3, 2023 Dr Chirag A. Shah; M.D. Oncology/Hematology (USA), 9998084001. Diplomate American Board of Oncology and Hematology. Ahmedabad.