Cancer is no stranger to the list of common health concerns present in today’s society. With 1 in 3 people in the UK alone developing some form of cancer during their lifetime, it has become a challenge that most of us may have to face. However, how we choose to treat this disease is changing for many around the globe, as the rise in alternative therapies shed new hope for a natural approach to curing the dreaded C.
There are more than 200 types of cancer in the world and many different treatments for each. The most common medical therapies are Chemotherapy, Radiation Therapy and Targeted Therapies. Although conventional methods have proved to be relatively successful, they do come at a price. Symptoms such as fatigue, hair loss and breathlessness are just some of the unpleasant manifestations that follow after treatment.
In recent years, alternative therapies such as yoga and meditation have taken off. As more positive research unfolds, so does ones openness to embrace another way of healing the body: through the mind itself.
From Where Does Meditation Derive and How Can its Benefits Help Us Today?
This ancient practice was first formed thousands of years ago in the Far East. There is recorded evidence to suggest that meditation dates back as far as 500 B.C, where Indian artifacts known as “Tantras” speak of such meditative practices. It is speculated by researchers that the first discovery of an “altered state of conciseness” was made by primitive hunter-gathers whilst staring into the flames of their fires.
Across the Asian continent Gautama the monk, as the Buddha, made his mark as the meditative icon we still see today. His teachings spread through the East. As neighboring countries caught wind of the spiritual practice, they adopted their own forms of mediation by practicing it in different ways.
Thousands of years passed until meditation finally made headway into Western society around the 20th century. In the 1960’s and 1970’s researchers began to look into the various effects of the practice. It quickly became apparent that there was far more to gain from meditation than just a sense of spirituality. Studies show that the physical and mental effects of mediation can be extremely beneficial.
A five year study conducted by Harvard scientists revealed that meditation affects DNA and brain activity. According to John Denninger, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School who was leading the study,
"There is a true biological effect. The kinds of things that happen when you meditate do have effects throughout the body, not just in the brain."
His research concluded that these mind and body techniques could have such power to switch on and off genes linked to stress and immune function.
But What is the Link to Cancer?
Some believe that one’s mental process or state of mind could be a contributing factor or even the cause of the disease itself. By applying alternative practices such as meditation, in theory, the mind could be cured along with the cancer.
Stories are popping up all over the web of real life testimonials from individuals claiming they cured their cancer through meditative practices. There are websites dedicated to such theories with an abundance of articles discussing the subject. One reader of the website AnmolMehta.com wrote in with her story, saying:
"I reduced my stress level by at least 80% naturally. I listened and stopped talking – becoming aware of surroundings. I knew that my organs had a voice, and I was to listen. I started to go to my room to meditate every day, and recharging my body."
Websites such as Cancerreaserch.org are jumping on the bandwagon and embracing alternative therapies too. Their website has a whole section dedicated to the subject including research conducted in many different countries on meditative benefits. Most of the recent research has been based around mindfulness mediation that can help reduce anxiety, tiredness, stress, chronic pain and sleep problems as well as lower blood pressure.
"A controlled study published in 2000 looked at 90 cancer patients who did mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) meditation for 7 weeks. They found that people who meditated had 31% lower stress symptoms and 67% less mood disturbance than people who did not meditate."
Alternative therapies have been proven over thousands of years to reduce anxiety and stress by calming the body, and helping the individual to feel more relaxed. As of yet there is no scientific research to prove that meditation alone cures cancer but there is no doubt that the practise can significantly improve one’s sense of well being during such a traumatic time.
Although the practice derives from a religious background, you do not need to be religious to learn meditation. Whether you are seeking spirituality, clarity, or simply relaxation, with a little practice, anyone can learn and benefit from it.
There is no denying that cancer sufferers through the world are feeling the incredible benefits that the practice has to offer. If at the very least it can help patients feel more positive and optimistic, than that in itself is something to be celebrated.