New Study Touts Yoga’s Benefits For Breast Cancer Survivors

downward facing dog yoga pose
Photo by mkatolykphotos

Yogis love to proselytize, but nothing emboldens the yoga community more than when a major medical study corroborates what yogis already know: that yoga does the body good. Add to the growing body of evidence a new study out of the Ohio State University in Columbus. Researchers there found that yoga – even a budding practice – imparts beneficial and therapeutic benefits to breast cancer patients.

The study, led by Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, a professor of psychology and psychiatry, found that the more breast cancer survivors practiced yoga, the better their results. Yoga, the study found, can help reduce debilitating fatigue, inflammation and sleep disorders often associated with chemotherapy and radiation.

Published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the study found that, at the six-month point of the study, on average, fatigue was 57 percent lower in women who had practiced yoga compared to the non-yoga group, and their inflammation was reduced by up to 20 percent. Researchers monitored 200 women who were new to yoga and between the ages of 27 to 76. All had finished treatment for breast cancer within the last three years and were two months past their last treatment.

“This showed that modest yoga practice over a period of several months could have substantial benefits for breast cancer survivors,” Kiecolt-Glaser told the university’s online magazine. “We also think the results could easily generalize to other groups of people who have issues with fatigue and inflammation.”

The study also found that the women who practice more frequently saw larger changes in fatigue, vitality and depressive symptoms. The yoga group saw significant reduction in inflammation indicators and improved sleep. “Yoga has many parts to it – meditation, breathing, stretching and strengthening. We think the breathing and meditation components were really important in terms of some of the changes we were seeing,” Kiecolt-Glaser said. “We think improved sleep could be part of the mechanism of what we were seeing. When women were sleeping better, inflammation could have been lowered by that,” he added. “Reducing fatigue enables women to engage in other activities over time. So yoga may have offered a variety of benefits in addition to the yoga exercises themselves.”

Of course this is all good news for people battling cancer as well as the broader yoga community, and it adds to an ever-increasing body of scientific work that shows irrefutable evidence that yoga offers powerful healing benefits.

In just the last couple of years, a slew of studies have shown similar findings –  that yoga can improve the quality of life and emotional well-being by easing levels of anxiety, depression, distress, and stress of cancer patients and survivors.

Have you or someone you know experienced relief from cancer treatment side effects through yoga?

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