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Thanks Science!: Major Study Finds Yoga Helps Cancer Survivors Sleep, Boosts Energy

in Thanks for the tip, YD News, Yoga Heroes, Yoga Therapy

File this under “Yay for Yoga!”

Sure yoga news seems to be taking over the world, but when just about every single media outlet picks up a story about yoga helping cancer patients, we say bring it on! A study at the University of Rochester has found that a 75 minute yoga practice twice a week has helped cancer survivors sleep better, fight fatigue and cut down on pills and medications as sleep aids. Good news!

And seriously… you can read all about it on CNN, ABC News, USA Today, Businessweek, TIME . The official paper, and results of the trial will be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting in June.

Called YOCAS, the four-week program involved sessions of hatha and restorative yoga twice a week for 75 minutes each, in combination with breathing exercises and meditation. Among the 410 participants, who were divided into yoga and traditional follow-up care groups, those practicing yoga recorded nearly double the improvement in sleep quality and reduction of fatigue compared to those not practicing yoga. They also reported better quality of life overall, Mustian says. “And the yoga group had all of these benefits while reducing their use of sleep medication,” she says.

Fantastic! This study is extra important not only because it’s the largest clinical trial of its kind so far, but because previously physicians haven’t typically been so comfortable pushing “alternative” or supplemental therapies like yoga beyond standard treatments. But now they can, with science!

“This trial will provide a solid contribution to the literature and provides good evidence that yoga may be an effective therapy to improve symptom control following a cancer diagnosis,” said Lee W. Jones, an exercise physiologist at Duke University in Durham, N.C.

Plus, the door is being opened for yoga as an acceptable exercise/”treatment” even outside of the hospital setting.

“This is groundbreaking,” said Kathryn Schmitz of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and author of soon-to-be-released guidelines on exercise in cancer survivors. Particularly exciting, Schmitz said, is the fact that this type of intervention can be applied in community settings based on oncologists’ recommendations, rather than just in hospitals or academic centers.

There is a smattering of other studies going on all across the country, the most well-known perhaps being Donna Karan’s (and Urban Zen’s) yoga wing at Beth Israel. Beyond that, there’s further academic research like at University of Kansas Hospital where they’re launching a study on the effects of yoga on atrial fibrillation (abnormal heart rhythm which can be triggered by stress). Another biggie coming up is MD Anderson Cancer Center which last month received an unprecedented $4.5 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to investigate incorporating yoga into breast cancer treatment.

EarlierYoga and Cancer, the Connection for Relief

NBA Star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Announces He Has Cancer, Stays Positive With Yoga
Yoga for Patients, But Do Nurses Get a Dose of Zen?
Yoga Therapy, A Valid and Bolstering Road to Cancer Recovery

16 comments… add one
  • As a cancer survivor, I approve of this message. 😉

  • Great news. Thanks for keeping us up-to-date. You always give us just the right amount of information–not too little so we don’t real get it, and not so much that we put it into our “read later” (=never) pile. Sort of like Goldilocks and the three bears.

    Bob Weisenberg

  • Hi, I created a video exclusively for cancer survivors, inspired by my mom’s fight for 23 years against metastasized breast cancer. To learn more about an at home yoga practice for cancer, visit http://www. yogaforcancer.com, thanks so much and namaste…


  • Great to hear yoga’s getting clinical attention. Will be great to have medically substantiated data to encourage others to explore this invigorating and exciting practice. Would love to see many more trials like this to explore all avenues of health & wellness

  • Thanks for this. It’s always nice to see mainstream confirmation of what we know. I taught yoga to cancer patients, survivors and caregivers for several years. Most of them had never practiced yoga before, and they were so appreciative. Many of them reported more easeful sleep as well as more graceful day-to-day living. One student came to class until she no longer could. Her last class was two weeks before she passed. That day she had to be helped up the stairs, but she didn’t want to miss her practice and the wonderful community that had formed around yoga.

  • Amanda

    I think that yoga can help in many cases. After all, this is a very good and active way to improve your health. Yoga requires good flexibility, constant physical activity, and calming that has a positive effect on health. If this is all fixed with the right vegan organic supplements then your body will get everything it needs

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