Cancer is defined as the unnecessary growth or division of cells, which results in tumors that damage the immune system and impair other body organs. It is the second leading cause of death after ischemic heart disease and stroke in the world. The American Cancer Society‘s predicts an estimated 606,520 cancer-related deaths in the U.S. for 2020.
Yoga is an ancient Indian practice that combines specific poses, deep breathing, and meditation. It is a holistic health approach that connects your mind, body, and spirit, improving your physical health, and enhancing mental wellbeing, leading to peace, relaxation, happiness, and tranquility. These natural healing qualities can be beneficial for managing the symptoms of cancer.
Can Yoga Help Cancer Treatment?
A 2018 study highlighted that yoga could improve physical and psychological symptoms felt by cancer patients. Integrating yoga in conventional cancer care and management is a patient-centered approach. It can positively influence the physical health and emotional wellbeing of cancer patients.
The study found that the development of tumors is linked with an impaired immune system. Yoga naturally alters the cellular environment and boosts immunity, which increases the likelihood of preventing tumor progression (tumorigenesis) and can help cure and prevent cancer. The study also found that yoga, combined with meditation, can lapse tumor growth. Researchers concluded that yoga interventions were beneficial for cancer patients and improved their condition without causing any side effects.
Another research study highlighted that yoga is an effective alternative and safe tool for yoga treatment. Yoga does not cause any adverse effects, whereas medication, chemotherapy, and radiation can affect normal cells, leading to further complications.
A 2017 review study finds that health professionals have used yoga and meditation in cancer symptoms management. Researchers highlighted that yoga could improve symptoms like sleep disturbances, tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting induced by chemotherapy in cancer patients.
Additionally, Sadanta, Sheetakari, and Sheetali are cooling Pranayama exercises, which can help chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.
How Yoga Affects Cancer Patients
Yoga is a holistic approach to physical health and emotional wellbeing. It includes a wide range of practices that can help a person achieve his or her health goals. A standard yoga class usually includes poses (asanas), breathing techniques (pranayama), and meditation that supports an individual’s physical, mental, and emotional health. Here is how yoga helps reduce cancer-related symptoms.
Yoga Improves Sleep
Fatigue and lack of sleep are common symptoms of cancer. More than 25 percent of cancer survivors report fatigue for 5-10 years after treatment. A growing body of research evidence shows that yoga reduces fatigue and improves sleep.
Thus, it enhances cancer patients’ quality of life by adjusting psychosocial elements and suppressing inflammatory pathways. Yoga interventions are more helpful than pharmacological, psychosocial, and educational interventions in cancer-related fatigue, stress, and anxiety.
Yoga Reduces Stress
Yoga is an excellent way to reduce stress. It increases oxygenated blood supply to the brain and stimulates neurons to suppress cortisol and release chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins to promote relaxation.
A 2012 meta-analysis study found that yoga reduced 51 percent fatigue, 69 percent depression, 75 percent distress, and 77 percent anxiety in breast cancer patients. Researchers highlighted that yoga improved social and emotional functioning in breast cancer patients by 33 percent and 49 percent, respectively.
Yoga for Pain
Both acute and chronic pain associated with cancer can affect the brain. Chronic pain changes alter specific brain structures that lead to impaired cognitive function, stress, and anxiety. Practicing yoga can help cancer patients relieve chronic pain.
A 2016 study showed that yoga programs that included mindfulness exercises, breathing techniques, and restorative yoga poses, like Hatha yoga, are beneficial in reducing musculoskeletal pain symptoms in breast cancer patients. Participants reported reduced muscle weakness and pain.
Cancer is a deadly disease, and the second leading cause of death worldwide after cardiovascular conditions. Scientists and researchers from every biomedical field are making substantial efforts to develop new and effective treatments. Although their commitment and efforts are huge, there is a considerable amount of research that shows the efficacy of yoga in preventing and controlling cancer-related symptoms.