A recent study shows that the practice of yoga improves sleep in cancer survivors who tend to suffer from sleeplessness up to two years after the completion of chemotherapy and radiation. The study is part of a number of research projects funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention observing the effects of alternative therapies on cancer.
Though the exact cause of sleeplessness in cancer survivors is unclear to Western physicians at this time, the proof exists that the practice of yoga raised sleep quality by 22%. The group of practitioners also found that their experience of fatigue was cut in half, which in turn lead to an increased quality of life. The practitioners were also able to reduce the use of sleeping pills and continue to sleep better than the control group.
Western medicine also is unsure exactly how the practice of gentle hatha yoga and restorative yoga (the two styles used in the study) increase relaxing effects, but the consensus is that it works. Some doctors attribute this to a lowering of stress hormones, a scientific fact that has been studied and proven, others theorize that it promotes “social bonding.”
For practitioners and teachers of yoga, the reasons why the practice can offer this type of support are less illusive. Yoga deals not solely with the gross physical structure, but more profoundly on the subtle and energetic bodies. When the gross physical body experiences illness and/or trauma the energetic body and the flow of prana is affected as well. Hatha yoga, especially in gentle and restorative forms, affects and heals the more subtle layers, which in turn produces very measurable effects on the gross physical body.
Though the conventional doctors and researchers do not understand the origin of the positive results, they do not seem to be discouraged by that. Doctors are willingly “prescribing” alternative therapies like yoga as intervention for the secondary effects of cancer and cancer survivors. Cancer patients and survivors are encouraged to check with their physician prior to beginning any form of physical exercise, and the head of the study completed at University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, also suggests practicing with Yoga Alliance certified instructors.
Do you have any experience with yoga providing relief from the effects of illness or recovery? We would love to hear about it.