Cancer Care
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Research studies suggest that it could help people with cancer deal with symptoms and side effects. Yoga could help to reduce stress, depression, fatigue, and anxiety for some patients. And it improved the quality of mood, sleep, and spiritual well being for many people. 

Can Yoga help cancer patients side effects?

Are you one of the cancer survivors who have been battling every day to fight one of the deadliest diseases?  You are definitely not alone!  Going through your treatment, you need to be equipped with armor around you to fight against the debilitating side effects and related toxicities. Yoga is considered as an integrative, non-pharmacologic therapy that does not aim to cure cancer but can help the patient cope up with various side effects caused by cancer therapy. Cancer treatment can hamper the quality of life of a patient subjecting them to psychological distress, sleep disruption, cognitive impairment, and musculoskeletal symptoms. Whereas yoga helps them to enhance their physical and emotional well being, various research shows that Yoga has been found to be effective in treating numerous side effects that result from cancer treatment.

Yoga is an ancient exercise form for mind and body. It aims to enhance strength, flexibility and breathing through a series of positions and movements. It's an entire body philosophy that began over 5,000 years back in India.

Yoga helps to create a perfect harmony between the mind, body, and soul that will help you feel calmer. It's promoted as a method of staying healthy and preventing illness. There are many asanas which you can do standing, kneeling, sitting, or lying down. Some forms of Yoga are very strenuous, while some are gentler and concentrate more on meditation and breathwork. Yoga teachers claim that the postures stimulate your nervous system, unwind your mind and body, make your joints and muscles more flexible Why do people with cancer use Yoga? As with several sorts of complementary treatment, one of the key reasons that people with cancer do yoga asanas is because it makes them feel great. Yoga is a mind and body therapy that involves a combination of variable postures, meditation, and rhythmic breathing techniques, all of which contribute to enhanced quality of life in cancer patients. However, the efficacy of yoga therapy depends on varied types of Yoga interventions, exposure, duration of practicing yoga, and indications.

See: Yoga Nidra and Meditation benefits for cancer patients

Yoga poses that can help cancer patients

What are some of the Yoga poses that can help cancer patients?

Yoga may have emerged as a part of healing in this modern era but it has been practiced for thousands of years. Yoga with its diverse aspects of spiritual practices or disciplines such as Yoga poses, pranayama, and meditation helps the cancer patients to overcome the negative and toxic effects of cancer and its treatment. Yoga is a great way to rejuvenate and promote strength and flexibility to the body. Subtle yoga poses can help a cancer patient to cope up with the side effects of chemotherapy like nausea, pain, sleep apnea, fatigue, loss in energy and even infertility related issues. 


List of Yoga poses that have been  found to be effective for cancer patients include:

- Reclining Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana): Helps to relieve strain in the inner thighs and groins and can be performed well with the support of a blanket.

- Cat-Cow Pose (Bitilasana-Marjaryasana):  Easy to perform and can help release the tension around the spine and belly by providing a gentle massage.

- Easy Pose with Palms Pressed (Sukhasana): As the name suggests, this yoga pose is easy to perform and can help bring awareness to your intention and alignment.

- Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani Asana): Another name is inverted lake pose, it may be quite difficult to perform but has the power to help with various ailments. In addition, it can be beneficial for neck, eye and back problems. 

- Bridge Pose (Setu-Bandhasana): Yoga pose that can rejuvenate, energize and restore your body function. Performing this yoga pose can help calm the brain, stimulate the reproductive organ,  realign the spine and help relieve backache.

- Corpse Pose (Savasana):  Helps reduce blood pressure, anxiety, and insomnia. In addition, it helps to treat the Vata dosha (air element in the body)

See: Integrating yoga into cancer care.

Real world success stories from cancer patients

Are there any success stories from real patients that have improved quality of life from Yoga?

1. A patient suffering from a Stage IIIB breast cancer considers the yoga class as a life-saver. She says that yoga was the one thing that she was able to do during her sickest times. Knowing that she has only a 40 percent chance of surviving the next five years she participated in a support group where people lived longer than those who did not. Undergoing intensive radiation and chemotherapy treatments have reduced her quality of life to almost zero. She is very happy to do yoga as part of her daily activity and says that breathing exercises and meditation can reduce levels of stress and promote the healing and well-being of an individual.  [Yoga journal for cancer. https://www.yogajournal.com/meditation/yoga-for-cancer]


2.  A survivor of colon cancer after undergoing various chemotherapy sessions and treatment was now seeking to put his life back together and enrolled in yoga classes. He shares his experience of trying yoga and says it gives him increased energy in times when all of his energy was depleted from illness and chemotherapy treatments. He also shares that trying yoga has healed him spiritually and provided him a healthy body or a healthy being. He feels more energized and life centered and even sleeps better during nights. [Yoga journal for cancer. https://www.yogajournal.com/meditation/yoga-for-cancer]

Yoga therapy doesn’t only provide better overall functional quality of life but also helps the patient fight with various issues that arise due to cancer treatment. Yoga promotes fertility, helps in altered sexual functioning, promotes hair growth, boosts immunity and helps patients fight pain and infections.

See: Triangle Pose in Yoga - Trikona Asana for Digestion

Research for efficacy of Yoga in cancer patients

Science and research to showcase the efficacy of Yoga in cancer patients

1. A scientific study named ‘Review of yoga therapy during cancer treatment [1] included 4 pediatric and 21 adult patients suffering from various types of cancer who volunteered for yoga sessions. The patients were divided into randomized and non-randomized controlled trials. The results of both groups were recorded separately. The findings of this study have concluded that yoga consistently supports improvements like depression, distress, and anxiety. Even the physical and biomedical outcomes suggested that performing yoga poses like Hatha, Vyasa, pranayama, meditation, Tibetan and restorative yoga (movements, breathing deep, relaxation, the guiding principle of ahimsa) enhanced the quality of life in patients by ameliorating sleep and fatigue.

2.  A meta-analysis that included 17 qualified studies titled ‘Yoga has a solid effect on cancer-related fatigue in patients with breast cancer.2 was carried out among 2183 patients suffering from breast cancer proved that Yoga improves fatigue in breast cancer patients after their treatment.  The study also showed that a supervised yoga class had a significant effect on cancer-related fatigue, whereas another yoga program that was carried out for six weeks, eight weeks and 60/90 minutes session every day showed moderate to large effect on fatigue in patients with breast cancer. 

Yoga has a marked effect in promoting the quality of life in patients suffering from cancer and can mitigate physical fatigue while having a moderate effect on cognitive and mental fatigue.


 3. In another study entitled  Effect of a six-month yoga exercise interventions on fitness outcomes for breast cancer survivors 3 reported improvements in physical fitness for 20 patients who survived breast cancer. The patients were enrolled in a six-month comprehensive yoga program that included structured Hatha yoga-based exercise trial. The results were compared to the randomized group who were undergoing conventional’ comprehensive exercise like aerobic, resistance, flexibility. Fitness assessments included measures of cardiorespiratory capacity, strength, anthropometrics, and flexibility. The results when compared was not found to be statistically significant from each group. However, the research supported that yoga-based exercise is considered safe and effective for breast cancer survivors.


Scientists believe that yoga is a mind and body therapy,  and by lowering the level of a stress hormone called cortisol, it assists in the improved well-being among patients.

See: Yoga Relief For Breast Cancer Patients Recovery

Outcomes

Even though yoga cannot cure or treat cancer, a lot of research shows that practicing Yoga can help alleviate the side effects of cancer from chemotherapy. Yoga is a therapy that involves the overall well-being of an individual by acting on the whole body. Yoga includes meditation, postures, and breathing exercises that when performed together can give strength to an individual to help fight the side effects from chemo sessions. Some research has also shown that Yoga if followed along with a balanced good and healthy diet, can help accelerate the healing process by helping to induce more energy. However, all this research has been carried out on a small group of patients and more research is to be done to know the efficacy of Yoga during the treatment of cancer.

See: Modified Sun Salutations as a Suitable Yoga Practice for Obesity

References

Danhauer. SC., Addington. EL.,  Sohl. SJ., Chaoul.A., Cohen.L.(2017). Review of yoga therapy during cancer treatment. Support care for cancer. Apr;25(4):1357-1372

1. Dong. B., Xie. C., Jing .X., Lin. L., Tian. L.(2019).Yoga has a solid effect on cancer-related fatigue in patients with breast cancer: a meta-analysis. Breast cancer research and treatment. 019 May 24. doi: 10.1007/s10549-019-05278-w.

2. Daniel C. Hughes, Nydia Darby, Krystle Gonzalez, Terri Boggess, Ruth M. Morris, Amelie G. Ramirez. (2016). Effect of a six month yoga exercise intervention on fitness outcomes for breast cancer survivors. Physiotherapy theory practice.Oct; 31(7): 451–460.

3. Yoga journal for cancer. https://www.yogajournal.com/meditation/yoga-for-cancer

4. The best yoga poses for cancer patients. https://www.rishikulyogshala.org/the-best-yoga-poses-for-cancer-patients/

See: Chemotherapy side effects with Bisoma Acupuncture

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