Yoga and Mental Quality of Life

Yoga is used to ease the toughest conditions: cancer anxiety, sleep disturbance, chemotherapy-associated symptoms

Yoga and Mental Quality of Life, Healthy Living Magazine, Lifestyle

Yoga and Mental Quality of Life, Healthy Living Magazine, Lifestyle

Many debilitating symptoms arise from cancer and its treatment that are often unrelieved by established methods. Some 30 to 90% of cancer survivors report impaired sleep quality post-treatment and anxiety, which can be severe enough to increase morbidity and mortality.

Lifestyle interventions, such as exercise, are recommended in conjunction with drugs and cognitive behavioral therapy for the treatment of impaired sleep.

Yoga apparently will improve sleep among cancer survivors. In the August 12 Journal of Clinical Oncology, 410 survivors suffering from moderate or greater sleep disruption between 2 and 24 months after surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy were randomly assigned to standard care or standard care plus the four-week yoga intervention. The yoga intervention used the Yoga for Cancer Survivors (YOCAS) program consisting of pranayama (breathing exercises), 16 Gentle Hatha and Restorative yoga asanas (postures) and meditation. Participants attended two 75-minute sessions per week.

Yoga participants demonstrated greater improvements in global sleep quality and, secondarily, subjective sleep quality, daytime dysfunction, wake after sleep onset, sleep efficiency and medication use at post-intervention compared with standard care participants.

“Yoga, specifically the YOCAS program, is a useful treatment for improving sleep quality and reducing sleep medication use among cancer survivors.”

Pranayama, a series of yogic breathing techniques, may improve cancer-related symptoms and quality of life. A pilot study was performed at Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, to evaluate effects of pranayama on cancer-associated symptoms and quality of life. Patients receiving cancer chemotherapy were randomized to receive pranayama immediately or after a waiting period (control group).

The pranayama intervention consisted of four breathing techniques taught in weekly classes and practiced at home. The treatment group received pranayama during two consecutive cycles of chemotherapy. The control group received usual care during their first cycle and received pranayama during their second cycle of chemotherapy.

The repeated-measures analyses demonstrated that any increase in pranayama dose, with dose measured in the number of hours practiced in class or at home, resulted in improved symptom and quality-of-life scores.

“Yoga breathing was a feasible intervention among patients with cancer receiving chemotherapy. Pranayama may improve sleep disturbance, anxiety, and mental quality of life. A dose-response relationship was found between pranayama use and improvements in chemotherapy-associated symptoms and quality of life.”

The July 16 Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine reports short-term effects of relaxation training according to the Yoga In Daily Life® (YIDL®) system on anxiety of breast cancer patients. YIDL® is a holistic system being practiced and taught worldwide and has been proven to be effective in the prevention and treatment of various diseases.

Thirty-two patients at the Institute for Oncology Ljubljana were randomized to the experimental and to the control groups. Both groups received the same standard physiotherapy for one week while the experimental group additionally received a one-hour group relaxation training session. At discharge, the experimental group was issued with audiocassette recordings containing similar instructions for relaxation training to be practiced for three weeks individually at home. Anxiety measures were obtained by blinded assessors using standardized questionnaires. Say the authors, “The results indicate that relaxation training according to the YIDL® system could be a useful clinical physiotherapy intervention for breast cancer patients experiencing anxiety.”


Dhruva A, Miaskowski C, Abrams D, Acree M, Cooper B, Goodman S, Hecht FM 2012 May. Yoga breathing for cancer chemotherapy-associated symptoms and quality of life: results of a pilot randomized controlled trial. J Altern Complement Med;18(5):473-9. doi: 10.1089/ acm.2011.0555. E-pub 2012 Apr 23. Kovačič T, Zagoričnik M, Kovačič M 2013 Jul 16. Impact of relaxation training according to the Yoga In Daily Life® system on anxiety after breast cancer surgery. J Complement Integr Med;10(1):1-12. doi: 10.1515/jcim-2012-0009. Mustian KM, Sprod LK, Janelsins M, Peppone LJ, Palesh OG, Chandwani K, Reddy PS, Melnik MK, Heckler C, Morrow GR 2013 Aug 12. Multicenter, Randomized Controlled Trial of Yoga for Sleep Quality Among Cancer Survivors. J Clin Oncol. [E-pub ahead of print]
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