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Yoga as medicine

Yoga as medicine

6 October 2023

Did you know that yoga can help reduce the risk of cancer spreading or returning?

Researchers have found that practicing yoga twice a week for 75 minutes can help reduce the risk of cancer spreading or returning.  In the study published by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), 502 cancer survivors (2-60 months post treatment) were randomised to take part in either 2 x 75 minute yoga sessions per week or 2 x 75min standard survivorship health education sessions.  After four weeks, serum inflammation markers were analysed which showed significantly lower overall inflammation in the yoga group compared to standard health education group. Inflammation is known to play a key role in the development and progression of cancer, thus targeting inflammation through treatment protocols is important to minimise the risk of cancer spreading or recurring.  

Yoga has also been shown to improve sleep quality in cancer survivors experiencing sleep disruption post-treatment.  Cancer survivors randomised to standard care plus yoga for four weeks demonstrated greater improvements in sleep quality and daytime dysfunction as well as reduction in use of sleep medication compared with standard care alone group. 

There is a growing evidence-base for the prescription of yoga as an adjunct therapy for cancer patients. Current American Society of Clinical Oncology guidelines for the use of integrative medicine in cancer care recommend yoga for helping to reduce anxiety and depression symptoms (15-20% of cancer patients take medication for anxiety and depression), improving quality of life, mood, fatigue and sleep quality.

The yoga intervention developed for these studies combines gentle and restorative yoga incorporating physical postures (asana), breathing (pranayama) and mindfulness exercises (meditation and awareness). 

Yoga, as a non-pharmacological intervention, is a safe practice which can be modified for participants’ physical capacity and level of ability, making it highly accessible to cancer survivors. 

MIOG will be delivering an 8-week yoga program specifically tailored for cancer patients commencing Friday 27 October.  This program will be facilitated by experienced yoga teacher and breast cancer survivor, Claire Evans.  For more information or to book please call 03 9571 7498.



Lin et al (2023) Effects of yoga vs placebo on inflammation among cancer survivors: A nationwide multicenter phase III randomized controlled trial, Journal of Clinical Oncology, 41, no. 16_Suppl

Mustian et al (2013) Multicenter, randomised controlled trial of yoga for sleep among cancer survivors, Journal of Clinical Oncology, 31, no. 26

Mustian et al (2020) Effects of YOCAS yoga, cognitive behavioral therapy, and survivorship health education on insomnia: A URCC NCORP Research Base Phase III RCT in 740 cancer survivors, Journal of Clinical Oncology, 38, no. 15_Suppl

Ramondetta L. and Cohen, L. (2023) The role of yoga therapy in oncology care, ASCO Daily News 24 Aug, American Society of Clinical Oncology

About the Author: Claire Evans

Claire Evans is a nutritionist, yoga teacher, breast cancer survivor and part of the MIOG Community. Claire has worked in the health and wellness industry for over 15 years and has a strong research interest in food as medicine. Claire is passionate about supporting cancer survivors holistically with evidence-based therapies and helping to educate people to eat well to support optimum wellbeing.

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Yoga as medicine

Posted by Claire Evans on 6 October 2023
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