Yoga – The Calm amidst the chaos in the life of a palliative care recipient

About the Author: With over 15 years in the world of spirituality and yoga, Ms Sunderrajan volunteers as a Senior Faculty for the ‘Art of Living Foundation’. She uses her skills to teach yoga, meditation and life hacks at the Signature Youth Empowerment programmes. She heads the Institutions Programmes for Karnataka and has trained thousands on the power of the mind and how to use it to excel in life.

She has travelled across the state of Karnataka and countries outside of India to volunteer for various programmes that bring people to the wealth of yoga, pranayama and meditation through talks, workshops, facilitations and sharing of her own personal transformation with Spirituality.



Imagine this: You are walking on a hard concrete road with a broken shoe on a scorching hot summer day in Delhi. At that moment when you are about to faint, you are welcomed into an AC room, given a cool glass of lemon juice and a wet towel to wipe yourself.

How do you feel?

This is exactly what Yoga and calmness does to a patient and a family receiving palliative care.

Understanding Yoga

Yoga is the science of integrated health. It is a holistic discipline that can be embraced by anyone who breathes. Yoga come from the Sanskrit word “Yogah” which means Union. It is the subtle art of harmony that happens when the body, mind and spirit are in Union.

Yoga in its most authentic form is ‘a happening’ VS ‘a doing’. This takes off the burden that you have to do a 100 things to feel bliss. The simplicity of a yoga practice is astounding in how it is inclusive. Anyone and everyone can experience Yoga. It is beyond just the complex stunts you see in the name of yoga! No – you don’t have to be super flexible or have your head into your legs to attain bliss – the ultimate sign of health.

Talking of health, Spiritual Guru and Yoga Shiromani Sri Sri Ravishankar says that “Health is not a mere absence of disease. Health is being established in the Self. Health is the dynamic expression of life”. Yoga helps one to fully experience this.

The holistic comfort of Yoga in Palliative Care

As a palliative patient trudges through pain, loss of hope, the “Why me” self-pity, an overload of Whatsapp universities on managing Terminal illness, the one thing that is constant in their emotional ecosystem is stress. Yoga and meditation in such situations presents itself as the perfect antidote to this stress. Here is how it shifts comfort levels –

Physical comfort: The asanas or postures provide the much-needed gentle movement that helps release happy hormones in the brain. The one question I get asked from palliative care patients is “Will I be able to do it?”. My answer is a resounding “Yes!”. The philosophy of a yoga posture is ‘Sthiram Sukham Asanam’ which itself means that Stability and Comfort are the very basis of a great asana. This means that my bend can be very different from how some else bends, and that both are ok! It’s never a race, never a competition and therefore literally something anyone can do, to the extent they can.

Mental Comfort: Have you noticed how your emotions and breath are strongly linked? You breathe fast when angry and slow when calm. The vice versa is also true. Mindful breathwork or pranayama oxygenates the body like no other while also helping the mind to control feelings of negativity. As the mind slows down, it reflects and settles down to accept the situation – irrespective of the outcome. This helps to make the journey easier to tread for both the patient and their care giver.

Emotional Comfort: In palliative care, a key game changer to the quality of life in those last few days or months is how well one is aware of their emotions. As we celebrate ‘World Sauntering Day’ as well in June, it is such a beautiful reminder that life is way beyond all that rush; it is beautiful when you slow down and reflect. Try taking a walk in the nature; or listening to the birds chirping or to the water drips; observe the colors in the sky, the sunset beyond the horizon; or smell the wet mud and feel the wind on your cheeks and take a few deep breaths. You will feel yourself merging with nature as you start slowing down. Yoga – your union with the vastness will happen.

Perceptual Comfort: Whether you are a caregiver or a patient, Yoga widens your perspective of life. Just like how you can see your reflection only in clear water, slowing down the mind will help you to reflect on life far more clearly. It helps to see life using a bigger picture lens. You will no longer bicker on the small things, nit-pick on meaningless issues, carry anger and hatred in your heart, simply because you will see the impermanent nature of life right in front of you. With this being time boxed, you will find the way to fully live every minute of your life. This itself is healing in nature. I remember how so much changed for me in the way I looked at life while caring for my mother while she was receiving palliative care. I forgave so many, I relooked at my priorities and most importantly I realized the power of gratitude. My daily meditation made the difference.

The science and art of healing

Every time someone is healing, “Something good is happening”. In integrated sciences, curing and healing are not the same. One can be cured while healing, but the other way is not always true. Healing is always a journey. Sometimes this journey includes pain, deformity, stress and more, all with one intention – that life wants you to learn something good. Whether it is a simple lifestyle shift to eat healthy, a positive pattern shift in your thinking, a reclaim of your life, a drop of your mask and embracing your true self – this is the science of healing. Yoga is the art of making that happen.

This is exactly like what that cool glass of lemon juice does to you on a hot summer day!

Happy International Day of Yoga and World Sauntering Day!

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