Beneficial Role of Yoga in Cancer Survivor’s Recovery

July 2, 2018

Yoga, the traditional spiritual and ascetic discipline practiced in India since time immemorial. It includes breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, and is proved to contribute to our physical and mental well-being. Considering the immense benefit it imparts to the regular practitioner, the United Nations General Assembly has unanimously declared June 21 as the International Day of Yoga Day in the year 2015. Since then Yoga day is celebrated throughout the world by people all walks of life.

Yoga is very useful in preventing/reducing various ailments and is recognized to be useful in cancer treatment and later. Reports from around the world indicate that yoga incorporated in the post treatment schedule for faster recovery and good health of the cancer survivors. In this regard the slow, gentle movements and meditation helps the debilitated patients recover without taxing the body and with time this will lead to reducing fatigue, shortness of breath, and other symptoms of cancer and cancer treatment.

Yoga is also shown to maintain flexibility and reduce symptoms of fatigue, insomnia, and pain that affect the quality of life in cancer survivors. Studies have also shown that that yoga modulates neural, hormonal, and immune functions at a cellular level and offers beneficial effects to the regular practitioners. In recent years the uses of yoga has been evaluated in many studies and are explained in short in the following section.

Yoga reduces anxiety

In cancer survivors anxiety is a major issue and at times so severe that medical help is needed. Yoga is very beneficial in reducing anxiety and the breathing practices in Yoga reduce the anxiety associated with cancer.

Yoga increases appetite

In cancer survivors loss of appetite is a major issue and this affects the diet and recovery process. The light physical exercise associated with meditation and breathing results in an improvement in appetite and with it general health.

Yoga reduces stress

Cancer survivors go through a lot of physical, mental and psychological stress. Yoga has been shown to reduce the stress and research indicates it extends also in cancer survivors. Regular practice of yoga is shown to cause less stress in survivors. To further validate this, research has also proved that Yoga lowers cortisol, a hormone secreted during stress in patients with breast cancer.

Yoga reduces emotional distress and fatigue

Cancer treatment is rigorous and the survivors go through severe emotional distress and fatigue. Studies have shown that incorporating yoga reduces this and offers good quality of life.

Yoga reduces insomnia and improves sleep

Research indicates that Yoga helps people having difficulty in falling asleep or remaining asleep. By enhancing the sleep quality yoga reduces the physical and mental fatigue and will improve the quality of life.

Physical benefits of Yoga

Cancer treatment debilitates the body and the bones. Studies have shown that Yoga helps improve flexibility, strength, muscle tone, and balance; all of which is extremely beneficial in improving the physical activities and general wellbeing.

My experience at Mangalore Institute of Oncology (MIO), suggest that patients who perform Yoga are doing much better and have resumed their job early. Yoga is especially useful in cancer survivors who are also afflicted with co-morbidities like diabetes, hypertension, arthritis and asthma as it improves their general health status and overall quality of life. Additionally, preliminary reports from around the world indicate that Yoga is beneficial in preventing regrowth and spread of cancer possibly by reducing obesity which promotes/triggers cancer growth and progression. MIO has initiated Yoga training for mitigating psychological distress and in regaining better health and the results are very encouraging. On a cautionary note, Yoga is very useful but some positions may cause strain on ligaments and joints, and could be detrimental to some people. Therefore discuss with the treating doctor before initiating it and practice this with trained Yoga experts.

By Dr Suresh Rao
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Comment on this article

  • Anita Britto, Mangalore/Auckland

    Fri, Jul 06 2018

    Very informative and useful article on the benefits of yoga. Am addicted to Yoga and totally agree that it’s the best way to start your day followed by Meditation. The benefits when it comes to reducing inflammation, decreasing chronic pain, alleviating the symptoms of Migraine and several ailments can not be underestimated.

    My personal favourite is Chakrasana and Dhanurasana which I believe was among Dev Anands favourites.

    Yoga has been introduced in many prisons especially in the US. The result of intervention has proved to be more effective among prisoners who opted to join Yoga Class and it has helped to assist with major addiction and violence issues as well as impulse control which is one of the main factors responsible for offences. Going by the positive outcome, there are plans in place to roll out the benefits of yoga to prisons across the world.

    Hope to see more articles from you, Dr Suresh.

  • Denzil Vinod Machado, Mangaluru/Geneva

    Thu, Jul 05 2018

    There's already an unfathomable evidence that suggests yoga and meditation have helped cancer survivors in quick recovery. Mindfulness based cancer recovery (MBCR) is also gaining attention from the medical community. Thanks Dr. Suresh for spreading the awareness.

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