Today, Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Yoga Yields Significant Benefits for Women with Breast Cancer

The benefits of yoga are numerous and well-known.  Weight loss, lower blood sugar, increased flexibility and better spiritual balance to name just a few.  Yoga has also been shown to increase the lubrication of the body’s joints, ligaments and tendons as well as internally massaging the body’s organs.  Yoga increases muscle tone and is thought to help detoxify the body. 

Yoga has become a very popular holistic remedy for many chronic ailments.  Recently, in fact, a February 2009 study on yoga and breast cancer was released by the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.  That study found that yoga may yield significant benefits for women battling breast cancer.  

The Wake Forest Study
In the study, scientists surveyed a randomized group of 44 women.  All of the women were breast cancer patients.  Of the 44, 34% were actively undergoing cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiology.  Meanwhile, the other 66% had already completed therapy or treatment of some sort.  Half of the women in the study participated in a ten-week program consisting of 75-minute Restorative Yoga classes.  The other half participated in the wait list control group and did not take part in the yoga. 

At the beginning and the end of the 10-week Wake Forest study on yoga and breast cancer all the participants were given a questionnaire.  The answers of which were intended to assess the quality of their lives.  The results from the questionnaires showed that the restorative yoga group exhibited significantly more satisfaction with their lives than the women in the control group.  The control group were then subsequently all invited to take restorative yoga classes as well.  

The yoga group was found to have greatly improved overall mental health.  They showed particular improvement in the specific areas of being less depressed and more having more positive emotions.  They also exhibited a greater spirituality in general by comparison to the people in the control group.  Scientists found, in fact ,that the women who had experienced the most negative thoughts and emotions at the study’s baseline were also the ones who showed the greatest improvements at the study’s conclusion.  

The women in the yoga group also experienced fewer problems with fatigue at study’s end.  This was in contrast to the women in the control group who reported no significant change in regard to fatigue.

The study was published in the February 2009 issue of Psycho-Oncology.

Mind-Body Therapy
The lead researcher in the study was, Dr. Suzanne Danhauer, P.H.D. of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine.  In her statement she indicated that evidence is quite strong that mind-body therapies improve mood and quality of life in people with cancer.  Yoga is one such mind body therapy that is both accesible and affordable.  She went on to add “Given the high levels of stress and distress that many women with breast cancer experience, the opportunity to experience feeling more peaceful and calm in the midst of breast cancer is a significant benefit.”

While there have been thus far few studies of this kind, the Wake Forest study is hopeful.  It would appear to offer convincing evidence that yoga can significantly benefit women with breast cancer.  The women who undertook Dr. Danhauers study gained positive differences in many aspects of their mental health.  Those included less depression, greater level of positive emotions, and more feelings of being calm and peaceful.  

Restorative yoga, also known as RY, is very similar to other styles of yoga.  It is, however, designed to be particularly gentle.  It emphasizes multi-directional movements of the spine performed with a very low impact.  Blankets, cushions, bolsters and other supporting props are often used to aid in the yoga sessions.  The goal is to attain maximum relaxation with a minimum of physical exertion.  The end results are intended to be feelings of being refreshed, rested and calm.  The low impact nature of RY enables people at nearly any level of health to easily take up its practice.

The Texas Study
A previous study on yoga and breast cancer was conducted by researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.  It focused on 61 women who had had surgery for breast cancer and were now receiving six weeks of radiation treatment.  Half of those women were assigned to a group that did a twice-weekly yoga class.  The other women were in the control group that did not participate.

The women in that study also filled out questionnaires at the beginning and end of the study.  Those questionnaires were designed to assess quality of life when it came to performing routine physical tasks such as lifting a gallon of milk, walking a mile or performing other such physical activities.  The scores were recorded on a scale that ranged from 0 to 100.

At the Texas study’s conclusion researchers found that the women in the yoga group had consistently higher scores in practically all areas.  The differences were most pronounced in areas of physical function.  While the yoga group had a mean score of 82, the control group were significantly lower at 69.  

Participants in the yoga and breast cancer group reported feeling in better health, being less fatigued and having far fewer problems with daytime sleepiness. 

The Last Word on Yoga and Breast Cancer
Dr. Lorenzo Cohen, the psychologist who lead the Texas study had this to say.  “Our belief is something as simple and brief as a short yoga program would be very useful at combating side effects from cancer treatment.”

While preliminary results would seem to prove Dr. Cohen right, most people agree that more research is necessary across the board.  To that end the National Cancer Institute recently awarded Dr. Cohen and his team $2.4 million to study the effects of Tibetan yoga on women with breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy.

Sign up for our Newsletter
Email Address:

Contact Us