Yoga may hold hidden benefit for breast cancer survivors, according to a new study. The ancient art of yoga may be beneficial as it may lead to improved sleep patterns for breast cancer survivors. Chemotherapy, the general go-to treatment of most cancers, may be the cause of the extreme fatigue and disrupted sleep that many breast cancer survivors have reported, and it’s believed that the soothing nature of yoga may go a long way towards helping survivors.
Common side effects of breast cancer are fatigue and inflammation. Inflammation is also thought to be a contributor to a person’s cancer risk, and so, is of particular concern when it comes to survivors. Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, psychology and psychiatry professor at Ohio State University in Columbus, is the study’s author, and while she generally studies the effects of stress, she decided to take her studies on a different route. She says she knows that greater fatigue means less activity and less activity ultimately means less sleep, so she wanted to see if something could be done to stop the cycle.
She, along with her study collaborator and husband Ronald Glaser, recruited 200 women between the ages of 27 and 76 who were yoga rookies and who had been diagnosed with breast cancer within the last three years. Candidates had to have completed their last round of treatment at least two months prior to beginning the story, and had to be reasonably healthy.
Wanting to see if yoga truly could benefit breast cancer survivors, Kiecoult-Glaser placed half the women on a waiting list; the other half were signed up for a yoga class. Those in the yoga class attended twice weekly sessions of 90 minutes each for three months. Throughout the yoga classes, they were brought through a series of movements that were very freeform and free-flowing – the hallmark of Hatha yoga.
Each group was asked regularly about their energy and vitality levels. While it took some time at first for the yoga group to show results of training, after the three months, those in the yoga group reported that they felt more energized than they had prior to starting the program. In addition, their inflammation dropped by 13 to 20 per cent as well.
In fact, those who had practiced yoga and continued to practice it after the three-month mark continued to improve. Those in that group reported far improved vitality and energy levels than the group that had been placed on the waiting list. The longer those who had been in the yoga group practiced, the better their energy levels were. The difference between the yoga group and the waiting list group was clear; the yoga group’s overall fatigue had dropped by 57 per cent.
It’s not a significant surprise that yoga does seem to provide benefits for breast cancer survivors. Exercise has often been believed to have recuperative benefits for breast cancer survivors; in addition to helping control stress levels, exercise such as yoga can improve personal outlook as well as help survivors begin to ward off their risk of getting cancer again.
Yoga may benefit breast cancer survivors, and now, studies are being launched to determine whether yoga itself has specific recuperative powers.
By Christina St-Jean