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The Benefits of Yoga for Cancer Patients

Karen Alexander, Licensed Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

April 27, 2018

It is estimated that in 2016, almost 36.7 million Americans practiced yoga. Yoga is an ancient practice that aims to integrate the physical, psychological and spiritual components of a person through physical postures, breathing exercises and meditation. There are different styles of yoga with varying postures and meditation techniques.
Several studies have demonstrated the health benefits of practicing yoga. It has been shown to induce neuroendocrine and hemodynamic changes that impact the initiation and progression of several diseases.

Anxiety, fatigue, depression, nausea, vomiting, and insomnia are common cancer-related symptoms that reduce quality of life for people receiving cancer treatment. Although evidence suggests that most patients undergoing cancer treatment may benefit from physical activity, some patients and healthcare providers still believe that resting is more beneficial. Several studies have reported a remarkable improvement in quality of life scores and emotional well-being when cancer patients participate in yoga therapy.

Meditation and yoga help reduce depression, anxiety, and fatigue, and improve sleep patterns – all of which are common symptoms for cancer patients. A recent study found that yoga can reduce emotional and physical fatigue related to cancer treatment. This nine-week study was performed in prostate cancer patients undergoing radiation treatment and found that men who took a 75-minute yoga class (Eischen’s yoga) twice a week during 6- to 9-week courses of radiation reported less fatigue, fewer sexual side effects, and better urinary function than men who did not. Men in the yoga group reported improved or stabilized symptoms over time, compared with the non-yoga group who reported worsening symptoms. The authors believe that the improved erectile and urinary function in study participants was related to strengthened core muscles and improved blood flow.

Yoga has also been found to have beneficial effects on blood glucose levels in individuals with diabetes and other chronic health conditions. Studies suggest some beneficial effects in total cholesterol and LDL (bad cholesterol), and it may also benefit digestive symptoms. Through regulation of breath, yoga could offer relief for acute and chronic stress. Certain yoga postures stimulate blood flow, massage the digestive organs and may even help to relieve gas, all of which are of benefit to those with IBS.

On May 19th, Ackerman Cancer Center is celebrating the 4th Annual Hug a Survivor Festival from 9 am to noon at our Mandarin office. As part of the celebration, we are going to have two 20-minute gentle yoga sessions led by a Christina Phipps-certified instructor. If you haven’t had the chance to try yoga before, this is a great opportunity to do so. Wear your comfortable clothes and try something new!

The Hug a Survivor Festival provides education and resources for cancer survivors, patients currently undergoing treatment, and caregivers. This year’s event will include art stations, health, and cancer wellness booths, and educational programs on nutrition, exercise, and gardening. All patients, caregivers, family, and friends are invited to join us as we celebrate each survivor and support those who are just starting their cancer journey. You can learn more at

Have a wonderful weekend!

Karen Alexander, MS, RDN, LD/N

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