Recently, a friend passed a brochure to me from the oncology building at Women and Infants Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island. To see Restorative Yoga on the schedule for women going through chemotherapy made so much sense. As Yoga instructors, we may often feel like we’re speaking to a wall, when addressing the medical community, but real progress is happening – right now.
Restorative Yoga, with its gentle stretches and assorted props, looks deceptively simple; studies, however, show that it evokes powerful results. Easing the physical and mental bodies into what seems almost like a moving meditation, the practice induces a deep state of relaxation and renewal. While restorative poses are often part of the cool down in rigorous Yoga routines, they are particularly appropriate for people with health problems and physical limitations.
Much of the research into the field of Restorative Yogic techniques involves cancer patients. As a complement to traditional care, restorative poses relieve stress, reduce pain, improve mood and boost immunity.
Scientific Evidence Supports Use of Restorative Yoga for Cancer Recovery
• A 2009 study at Wake Forest University found that breast and ovarian cancer patients who practiced Restorative Yoga for ten weeks were less stressed and more energetic than members of the test group who did not participate. Depression decreased by 50%, and feelings of calm increased by 12%.
• In 2005, results of nine studies completed at the University of California suggested that cancer patients who practiced Yoga had less anxiety and insomnia, fewer cancer-related complaints and an increase in feelings of general well-being.
• In 2007 and 2008, Canadian researchers at Queens University examined the effect of Yoga on the psychological health of cancer patients. Although modest positive results were noted over the course of ten studies, scientists indicated the need for further tests to determine which interventions were most effective and which patients might receive the greatest benefits.
• In 2009, Harvard University released findings favoring the use of Yoga for pediatric cancer patients and recommending additional research into the field.
• In 2006, information released by the Research Council for Complementary Medicine in London endorsed the use of mindfulness-based interventions in the treatment of cancer patients and recommended further exploration of the topic.
• At Stanford University Cancer Center, Yoga teachers say that Restorative Yoga reduces fatigue, restores calm and aids in the recovery process. They also recommend the practice for caregivers.
Although most studies have been small and limited in scope, the general consensus suggests that Restorative Yoga enhances the lives of cancer patients and warrants additional research. As its value has become more evident, so will its role in complementary health care.