Yoga reduces stress in cancer survivors

By Dr Suresh Rao

Mangaluru, Dec 11: Cancer is a major health issue in the world today and more so in India, which is reported to have the highest incidence (almost one- third of the world’s number). The diagnosis and treatment for cancer causes despair and invokes severe psychological stress like anxiety, demoralization and depression in the affected individual. If not intervened, the psychological stress may lead to a sequel of loss of stamina, emotional distress, fatigue, functional status of the patient, compliance to the treatment, impact on intimate relationships, social life and later affects the quality of life of the patient. Subsequently, the increase in stress consequentially decreases the quality of life, hampers the treatment protocol and thereby may influence cancer survivorship.

Scientific studies carried out with people afflicted with various ailments have conclusively shown that relaxation, which is opposite to physical and mental stress, facilitates regeneration and recuperation in the practicing individual. Yoga, an ancient holistic Indian traditional form of mind-body practices uses asana (techniques of posture), pranayama (breath control), dhyana (meditation) and practice of moral and ethical observance that has been investigated for its beneficial effects in various health conditions and the results suggest that it increases strength, agility, flexibility, enhances cardio-respiratory functions; and to augment ability to release mental and physiological stress, enhance mood, well-being, mind-body awareness, attention and emotions in adults.

Relaxation is an integral part in Yoga and numerous studies have shown yoga to be beneficial in mitigating physiological and psychological stress and to improve both physical and mental health in people afflicted with most cancers. However most of these studies include Asanas, which need continuous supervision and attention by the tutor, as any wrong practice can compromise the benefit and worse can cause physical injury. When yoga is done carefully under the guidance of an expert it brings together physical and mental disciplines that may help the patient achieve peace of the body and mind. This in turn helps them to relax and manage the stress due to cancer and to reduce anxiety. In fact multiple studies have shown that appropriate and long-term yoga practice is shown to relieve symptoms of side effects.

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and Society of Integrative Oncology (SIO), the world’s premier Oncology forums have recommended yoga for reducing anxiety, stress reduction, depression, mood disturbance, and improved quality of life in people affected with cancer patients. In accordance to the suggestions of ASCO and SIO, MIO has incorporated yoga training for interested patients and those practicing it regularly are having better quality of life. Patients with cancer interested to commence yoga should first consult their treating doctors. In addition, it is advisable to learn proper technique from designated instructors who have experience working with patients with cancer, as survivors may have special limitations due to surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy. At Mangalore Institute of Oncology (MIO), efforts are made to document the benefits of yoga in survivors of cancer by validating the benefits with appropriate guidance to the patient and their family members.


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