Any claim regarding Yoga and specific ailments is subject to medical and scientific scrutiny. It is not enough to know that therapeutic Yoga works. Most of the motivation behind scientific research concerns why therapeutic Yoga works. Once again, the benefits of Yoga regarding cancer recovery are being carefully researched, but this time two research groups from east and west are working together.
According to University of Texas MD Anderson Center’s new study about breast cancer and Yoga, the practice of this ancient healing art not only increases the quality of life for breast cancer survivors, but it also helps to balance hormones and fight fatigue in women undergoing radiation treatments. In findings to be presented to the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in June 2011, researchers will attempt to establish the validity of claims that alternative and complementary medicine can benefit the health of cancer patients.
The clinical studies at MD Anderson – in conjunction with the help of Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana (VYASA), a therapeutic Yoga research foundation and university in Bangalore, India, and a well-known organization in India – used a combination of asanas, breathing techniques, meditation, and other methods of relaxation to create a therapy regimen.
Results included better physical health, improved functioning, and a greater acceptance of the experiences with breast cancer. The program also helped patients gradually transition from close medical supervision to more independent lives. While practicing Yoga obviously makes breast cancer patients feels better, another study showed that results can last as long as 12 weeks after the exercise program ends.
There are several ways that Yoga benefits breast cancer patients:
• Allows the body to relax (different from sleep)
• Calms parasympathetic nervous system
• Drains stagnant lymphatic fluid
• Regulates glands and releases “good” hormones
• Decreases depression by as much as 50%, based on clinical studies
• Massages organs so that they work more effectively
• Aids in reduction of hot flashes
• Teaches control of the breath, reducing pain, and oxygenating blood
• Reduces fatigue and joint pain
• Improves quality of sleep
• Promotes meditation and visualization techniques
Although Restorative Yoga – a gentle Yoga that relaxes the entire body – is frequently chosen, many Hatha styles can be therapeutically modified to help women during or after treatment. In 2010, researchers at Rochester University Medical Center tested the results of specific types of Yoga techniques for breast cancer. These included gentle poses in sitting, standing, reclining, and transitional positions, as well as meditation and visualization. While these are effective, doctors advise against rigorous exercises or Yoga done in heated rooms.