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Cancer survivors benefit from yoga


Photo: Lululemon on flickr

The regular practice of yoga helps cancer survivors sleep better, says a new study by the University of Rochester Medical Center. As part of the research, a customized yoga program was developed which combined both Hatha and restorative forms. Hatha yoga includes asanas (postures) for all levels and breathing exercises designed to balance the mind and body. Hatha yoga generally moves at a slower pace making it perfect for the beginner and for those recovering from cancer treatment. Survivors at the University of Rochester who took part in the yoga program reported better sleep, less dependance on sleep medication, and a better quality of life than those who did not.

According to WEbMD Health News, “sleep problems and fatigue are among the most common problems experienced by cancer survivors. Approximately 80% and 95% of patients report fatigue during and after treatment, respectively, and as many as 80% and 65% experience sleep problems during and after therapy.” While sleep medications can be used by many cancer survivors, a wholistic approach to these sleep problems is welcome news.

In addition to improved sleep, yoga provides significant benefits for anyone, regardless of cancer status. Benefits of yoga include:

  • increased flexibility
  • decreased stress
  • improved strength
  • improved posture
  • increased range of motion in the joints

Karen Mustian, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of radiation oncology and community and preventive medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, told WebMd that cancer survivors “looking for this kind of benefit should probably look for gentle Hatha or restorative yoga taught by a well-qualified instructor registered with the Yoga Alliance.”

The Yoga Alliance provides a list of accredited schools and instructors. For those visiting a class for the first time, especially following cancer treatment, be sure to arrive early and let the instructor know that you are new. A brief dialogue with the instructor about your concerns and/or limitations will help the instructor to tailor a program to meet your needs.

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