This article was written by Wayne Lèal for the 4th issue of Amrita Magazine
When it comes to physical exercise I know a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t work, having injured every major joint in my body and had several invasive surgeries.
Right now I am facing another life changing challenge, the prospect of prostate cancer. Nobody wants to have prostate cancer, but the reality is it is very curable and there has never been a time of more hope. Nothing and nobody could have prepared me for the pain of peeing blood and the fear of going to the loo. Or worse still have no control over your pelvic floor causing you to pee yourself.
My training methodology became well known when the boxer Darren Barker turned to yoga to win a world title. It was a national UK news story from BBC News to the Times newspaper, prompting journalist Robert Crampton to write ‘If Barker really has discovered the holy grail of physical conditioning, stamina and strength without having to run or lift weights, he will be a very popular man indeed.’ Well, Barker said he did exactly that when he became the World Middleweight Champion and that my training was the missing ingredient that kept him focused and for the first time injury-free throughout training camp.
The prostate sits underneath the bladder and surrounds the urethra – the tube men urinate (pee) and ejaculate through. It is a disease that often grows slowly to start with and may never cause any problems. Only men have a prostate gland, it is the size and shape of a walnut and increases with age. Sadly, black men are more likely to get prostate cancer than other men.
• Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men.
• 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime
• 1 in 4 black men will get prostate cancer at some point in their lives
• Over 330,000 men are living with and after prostate cancer.
• Almost 50,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year in the UK.
• More than 10,000 men die from prostate cancer every year in the UK.
Prostate cancer doesn’t just spring up like a flower. It grows very slowly, taking a long time before it is actually discovered. The good news is that more men are having regular scans meaning that most men are diagnosed at least five years earlier than they used to be.
The recent Cooper Centre Longitudinal Study showed that a regular yoga practice can be extremely beneficial to prostate cancer patients in overcoming some of the well-known side effects of radiation therapy (which can include fatigue, sexual dysfunction, and urinary incontinence).
“The menu is not the meal so until you have tasted something you are in no position to give credible advice on that particular dish”.
While I welcome the report, the study was confined to the impact of yoga. In reality, it could be have been any form of exercise. Since I came into direct contact with the possibility of prostate cancer I have read a ton of stuff on the subject. Unfortunately, this one scientific study has spawned a proliferation of people jumping on the yoga bandwagon with spurious asana sequences for prostate cancer, along with thousands of google entries offering yoga as an elixir for nearly every ailment there is.
Yoga teachers can talk all they want about prostate recovery asanas but without experiencing it for themselves, or having a clue of what’s going on inside the body, it is meaningless. The menu is not the meal so until you have tasted something you are in no position to give credible advice on that particular dish.
By talking to friends and clients, I now know that pre and post prostate cancer is as much a mental mindstate as it is a physical state. Once you know what you’re dealing with, you are in control and learn to accept that the cancer could have been in there for a long time. And there is the possibility it may not grow at all. A lot of men have been diagnosed with cancer that doctors call “incidental,” which means it’s just there, but it doesn’t do anything. Many men die with prostate cancer, not of it.
I am now a few months down the line. The MRI scan was inconclusive because I forgot about my metal hip that affected the magnetic reading. So, the next step is a biopsy. What I do know for now is that positive thinking, talking about my problem and adapting my exercise is making me feel better.
Most men have an old-school mentality when it comes to looking after their health, unanimously thinking that things will be fine in the long run. My training with world-class athletes has brought me some credibility, so when I talk to them about meditation and exercises, to focus their breath in a meaningful way to strengthen their pelvic floor, their eyes don’t glaze over or roll up to the sky.
I am committed to better health and I’m a survivor. If men did more exercise on a regular basis—even just walking, we would see dramatic improvements in the disease, not to mention all the other things like anxiety, depression and energy levels.
Keep Exercise Simple
Whilst I still don’t know what is going on inside of my body I have regained more control over my pelvic floor. Doing 10-minute intervals of gentle side to side bouncing and yoga asana throughout the day.
• Avoid double leg jumping
• Aim to keep one foot in contact with the rebounder
• Keep rebounding to a short duration
My favourite standing posture is Tree Pose (Vrksasana), as it’s physically challenging for my hips focus and balance. I believe that it should be a posture that everyone practices. The Tree Pose can help ground you and it’s a wonderful way to enable you to focus your breath and help deepen your ability to develop stillness. Standing tall and proud with good posture broadens the shoulders, opens the heart, and enhances confidence self-esteem raising your feel-good factor.
Wayne began his wellbeing journey at fourteen. He has injured virtually every major joint in his body, rehabilitated, explored, experimented with mindfulness, yoga, martial arts and other exercise disciplines. He has taught yoga at the world’s top spas and trained elite athletes and captains of industry. In 2017 Champneys (the UK’s No.1 spa) introduced his amazing JUMPGA (The YOGA HYBRID) programme and it has become one of their most successful group classes.