Yoga can help you center your thoughts and maintain flexibility, but also has benefits specifically for people living with cancer. Symptoms of fatigue, insomnia, and pain can all lower your quality of life with cancer. In recent years the use of yoga has been evaluated in many studies looking at cancer symptoms. Some of the benefits that have been supported in at least a study or two include:
1. Sleep and Insomnia: Yoga may help people with cancer who have difficulty falling asleep or remaining asleep.
2. Fatigue: In a few studies, yoga was associated with a significant decrease in the fatigue related to cancer and cancer treatments.
3. Anxiety: Through its centering activities and breathing practices, yoga may reduce the anxiety associated with cancer.
4. Loss of Appetite: In some cases, yoga may result in an improvement when loss of appetite accompanies a cancer diagnosis.
5. Pain: As a complementary treatment –- that is, a treatment that is used along with conventional treatments such as pain medications -– yoga may decrease pain associated with cancer.
6. Stress: Yoga appears to have a role in stress reduction for people living with cancer, both clinically -- meaning that people have said they feel less stressed -- and as seen in markers of stress in the body. In a few small studies, yoga lowered blood cortisol levels in patients with breast cancer. Cortisol is a hormone that is secreted during stress and may play a role in the progression of cancer.
7. Emotional Distress: Individuals living with cancer reported significantly less emotional distress related to their disease when they incorporated yoga into their weekly routine.
It is important to note that these benefits of yoga relate to improvement in the symptoms of cancer and are not considered a “treatment” for cancer. In this context, yoga is usually used in an “integrative” fashion, meaning that alternative methods such as yoga are offered to help an individual cope with symptoms, while traditional medical practices such as surgery and chemotherapy are used to treat the cancer itself.
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