New Study: Yoga Relieves Symptoms of Depression in Cancer Patients

Fighting cancer is not simply a physiological ordeal. The long treatment process, the lack of any guarantees, the often conflicting advice and prognoses-these and many more concerns weigh on patients’ psyches, often dragging their mood down along with their  health. Fortunately, new evidence suggests that yoga therapy can help cancer patients reverse this trend.

As researchers keep looking for ways to fight the side effects of cancer, yoga therapy  shows promise as an aid in the body’s healing, and in counteracting the debilitating depression that many cancer sufferers experience.

One recent study, published in Psycho-Oncology and conducted by lead researcher Suzanne Danhauer, Ph.D., followed 44 women who either were receiving treatment for breast cancer or had already completed treatment. The women were divided into two equal groups: one participated in a regular yoga therapy class for breast cancer  patients and the other remained as a control group.

The yoga therapy group received a ten-week program of 75-minute Restorative Yoga classes. The gentlest form of yoga therapy, Restorative Yoga incorporates props such as cushions, blocks, and chairs to provide students with maximum support and comfort as they work through traditional yoga postures in a relaxed and effortless manner. The use of props also gives yoga students the ability to work at their own levels of strength and ability.

Both the yoga breast cancer group and the control group filled out a quality-of-life questionnaire at the beginning and end of the ten-week study. The questionnaire measured different aspects of well-being, ranging from mood to treatment-related symptoms. At the end of the ten weeks, the results clearly illustrated that those women who did Restorative Yoga as therapy for cancer experienced an improved quality of life, including lower levels of depression and greater calm and well-being.

The most notable improvements were found in those cancer patients who, prior to the ten-week Restorative Yoga instruction, had experienced the highest scores for negative emotion and the lowest scores for well-being. At the end of the ten weeks, those women who had completed the class in yoga therapy showed significant improvement in both categories, while those in the control group did not.

In addition, the yoga for breast cancer participants showed a marked decrease in fatigue levels, while the control group showed no such change.

Overall, the study found that women who practiced yoga for cancer experienced significant relief from depression, increased positive emotions, and a general feeling of calm and well-being.

At the end of the study, those in the control group were also offered the chance to take the yoga therapy course and experience for themselves the benefits of yoga for cancer patients.

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