Yoga Gives Relief to Women with Breast Cancer

Healthnotes Newswire (June 14, 2007)—Women with breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body (metastasized) may find relief from their symptoms by practicing yoga. A study in the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management found that yoga lends a sense of invigoration and acceptance to people with the disease.

After skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women, affecting one in eight. Pain, fatigue, and emotional distress affect many women with advanced breast cancer; the new study’s authors aimed to see if practicing yoga might bring a better quality of life to women living with breast cancer.

Yoga is an ancient Indian art that combines specific body positions (postures) with controlled breathing exercises. “A fundamental emphasis is placed on accepting one’s moment-to-moment experiences, whatever they may be, without forcing the body beyond its comfortable limits,” the study’s authors explained. “Struggles to control the body, or to control one’s physical sensations, thoughts, or emotions, often only exacerbate problems, detracting from focusing on the personally fulfilling activities at hand.”

Thirteen women with breast cancer took part in the eight-week study using the Yoga Awareness Program—a set of yoga postures, regulated breathing exercises, guided meditations, informational sessions, and group discussions designed specifically for women with metastatic breast cancer. The women met for two-hour group yoga sessions each week and were given supportive materials to practice yoga at home.

Before the program began and during the last two weeks of the study, the women filled out daily diaries recording symptoms of pain, fatigue, and distress, as well as their sense of invigoration, acceptance, and relaxation.

Practicing yoga helped the women feel more invigorated and accepting of the ways they had been affected by their medical condition. What’s more, practicing yoga for longer periods also helped decrease pain and fatigue and produced feelings of relaxation the day after a yoga session.

Overall the women felt that the program was helpful and all of them said that they would recommend it to a friend. While this was a preliminary study, the women who took part shared lots of positive feedback, including “The program really helped me become more aware of my body and to adjust to the changes that were happening. I learned to be more kind to myself,” “It made me realize how uptight I had become and how to deal with it,” and “I’m finding how to keep my balance even when the waves get rough.”

(J Pain Symptom Manage 2007;33:331–41)

Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She cofounded South County Naturopaths in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp practices as a birth doula and lectures on topics including whole-foods nutrition, detoxification, and women’s health.

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