Q: Why are more cancer treatment centers offering yoga programs?
A: Yoga is now among the recommended activities to improve quality of life during and after cancer treatment for some cancer survivors. Research is growing in support of physical benefits of exercise during and after cancer treatment, and while limited research shows such benefits with yoga, this probably varies with the amount and type of movement. According to clinical practice guidelines for breast cancer from the Society for Integrative Oncology, yoga has enough research supporting its use that it should be offered to breast cancer survivors seeking ways to decrease anxiety and improve mood. Although research suggests that improvements in sleep quality and quality of life may be small, it may also be helpful for these purposes to some breast cancer survivors.
A randomized controlled trial published after release of these guidelines also indicates potential for yoga to decrease menopausal symptoms in women taking anti-estrogen medications and to reduce fatigue. Less research is available regarding yoga among survivors of other cancers, although some studies do report improvements in sleep and health-related quality of life.
Other forms of “meditative movement,” such as tai chi and qigong, could potentially offer similar benefits. Studies suggest that meditation, group programs in stress reduction, massage, music therapy, relaxation techniques and breathing exercises can also help address side effects faced by cancer survivors. Yoga includes a variety of forms; each may offer somewhat different benefits, and depending on physical limitations for an individual cancer survivor, some may be more appropriate than others. As with any plans for physical activity, cancer survivors may want to discuss interest in yoga, and potential for any recommended modifications, with their health care providers.