Research About Breast Cancer and Yoga

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Research About Breast Cancer and Yoga

yoga teacher trainingBy Dr. Paul Jerard, E-RYT 500

Any claim regarding Yogic methodology and specific ailments is subject to medical and scientific scrutiny. It is not enough to know that therapeutic Yoga training works. Most of the motivation behind scientific research concerns exactly why Yogic methods work. Once again, the benefits of Yogic practices 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 Yogic practices benefit 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 style 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.

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