Yoga may improve the lives of breast cancer patients, a study has found.
Researchers say practising it can control stress and improve the wellbeing of women having radiation treatment.
Simple stretching exercises were able to lessen fatigue, the study showed.
But – when stretching was combined with the breathing, meditation and relaxation techniques used in yoga – breast cancer patients also felt healthier and more relaxed.
Lorenzo Cohen, a professor who led the research at the University of Texas, said that combining mind and body practices had ‘tremendous potential’.
The study, which was reported in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, split 191 women with breast cancer into three groups: yoga, simple stretching and neither.
Women who practised yoga had the steepest fall in their cortisol levels, suggesting yoga helped regulate the stress hormone.
Dr Cohen said: ‘Combining mind and body practices that are part of yoga clearly have tremendous potential to help patients manage the psycho-social and physical difficulties associated with treatment and life after cancer, beyond the benefits of simple stretching.’
To conduct the study, 191 women with breast cancer were split into three groups – yoga; simple stretching; or no instruction in yoga or stretching.
Participants in the yoga and stretching groups attended sessions specifically tailored to breast cancer patients for one-hour, three days a week throughout their six weeks of radiation treatment.
They were asked to report on their quality of life, including levels of fatigue and depression, their daily functioning and a measure assessing ability to find meaning in the illness experience. Saliva samples were collected and electrocardiogram tests were also administered throughout and after the course of treatment.
Dr Cohen said the research shows that developing a yoga practice also helps patients after completing cancer treatment.
He added: ‘The transition from active therapy back to everyday life can be very stressful as patients no longer receive the same level of medical care and attention.
‘Teaching patients a mind-body technique like yoga as a coping skill can make the transition less difficult.’
Dr Cohen and his team are now conducting a clinical trial in women with breast cancer to further determine the mechanisms of yoga that lead to improvement in physical functioning, quality of life and biological outcomes during and after radiation treatment.
Source: daily mail