Stretching, Connective Tissue and Cancer

Stretching, Connective Tissue and Cancer

One of the greatest gifts of teaching yoga is witnessing the many benefits of the practice for each student. The benefits are mostly familiar, such as higher energy, better balance, strength and flexibility, but once in a while you hear something new. A key moment for me solidified the power of the practice when a student shared that she had experienced a reduction in tumors in her body.  At the time, there was no research to back this up, but I knew that without a doubt this was true and that her practice was a big part of her healing. 

Historically, science and research has focused on cancer and the cancer cells themselves. Yet, some more recent researchers have started to “zoom out” and focus on the micro-environment of the tumors. One thing that researchers have noticed is the link between cancer and connective tissue. Researchers have a strong realization now that stiffness, architecture, and the tissue forces have an effect on cancer. They have found that the connective tissue is hard around the tumor. 

In the past, some people associated cancer as “wound healing.” The body reacts to a wound with acute inflammation. This acute inflammation usually heals a wound within 48-72 hours. If there is failed resolution, there are granulomas. A granuloma is a tiny cluster of white blood cells and other tissue than can be found in the lungs, head, skin or other parts of the body. Granulomas are not cancerous. They form as a reaction to infections, inflammation, irritants or foreign objects. Sometimes, the body contains inflammation which may lead to fibrosis or an exaggerated scar. Buildup of scar tissue can cause organ issues and inflammation, and further, cancer has been described as chronic inflammation. Recently, the studies show the biomechanical relation between tissue and the tumor. If the tissue is stiffer, it helps the cancer grow. 

The research shows that a relaxed stretch for just 10 minutes per day over a period of 1 month has resolved inflammation in the body. The researchers concluded that tumor growth was slowed by stretching because the dead cancer cell’s debris gets removed. The dead cancer cells they observed were the ones destroyed through chemo and radiation. 

The results of the latest research recommends that stretching can be looked at as more preventative rather than healing. I personally have had the privilege of witnessing students with healing and recovering.

As western science and research starts to catch up with ancient Eastern practices such as yoga, we tend to practice with more conviction and understanding. On an intuitive and experiential level, we already know the benefits, and that’s one thing I love about yoga. You don’t need to know on a conceptual level, but you know on an intuitive and energetic level. 

Further information can be found on the National Library of Medicine Website or

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