Yoga is a generic term for a physical, mental, and spiritual discipline originating in ancient India thousands of years ago. Yoga is good for the mind, body and soul and is a great way to stay healthy. New research has shown that it’s even more beneficial for cancer survivors.
A 2010 study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, found yoga improved sleep problems and fatigue. All of the cancer patients had been suffering from sleep disruption for 2 to 24 months. Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center took 400 cancer survivors and administered a yoga group and a standard care group. The yoga group participated in 75-minute yoga sessions twice a week. The researchers found that the yoga participants had significantly reduced fatigue, took less sleep medication and improved sleep quality compared to the control group.
“This is great news for cancer survivors who deal with persistent and debilitating side effects from their cancer and its treatments long after their primary therapy ends,” said lead investigator Karen Mustian, Ph. D., M.P.H. assistant professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “There are few treatments for the sleep problems and fatigue survivors experience that work for very long, if at all.”
Not only can yoga help with sleep and fatigue, it can also improve quality of life. A 2011 study presented at the 47th annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology reports yoga improved quality of life and lowered stress in cancer patients undergoing radiation treatments. Researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center administered yoga, simple stretching or no yoga or stretching to 163 women with breast cancer undergoing radiation therapy. Quality of life assessments, including fatigue, daily function, depression and spirituality were obtained from the participants prior to the study.
The yoga and stretching groups participated in one-hour sessions three times a week during the six week radiation treatment. The yoga classes included yoga postures, breathing, meditation and relaxation. The researchers found that both yoga and stretching reduced fatigue, but the yoga group had greater benefits to quality of life and lower stress hormones than either of the two other groups.
“The combination of mind and body practices that are part of yoga clearly have tremendous potential to help patients manage the psychosocial and physical distress associated with treatment and life after cancer, beyond the benefits of simple stretching,” says lead researcher Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., professor and director of the Integrative Medicine Program at MD Anderson.