New Studies Indicate Benefits of Yoga

Copyright Jane Yoga

Copyright Jane Yoga

The following message was written for BYC by one of our readers, an all-star yoga teacher and mother of two, Jennifer Lewis. We are posting this article for you because we believe it will be of value or interest to many members of our community. The message was written by Jennifer Lewis and does not necessarily reflect the views of Burlington Yoga Conference. You can email Jennifer (at) jennifer.lewis@acrotray.net. Thanks Jennifer! New Study Indicates Benefits of Yoga for Prostate Cancer Recovery Despite the ancient nature of the practice of yoga, it is amazing how, year after year, science is discovering new benefits that it bestows on the body and mind. A new study being carried out by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, headed by Dr. Neha Vapiwala (Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology in Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center), is currently studying how yoga can alleviate some of the negative side effects of radiation treatment, including stress, fatigue and a drop in patients’ general quality of life. According to the American Cancer Society, some 240,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer on a yearly basis in the USA (the average age for diagnosis of prostate cancer is 66), yet interestingly, over 70 per cent of those who practice yoga are women and only 18 per cent are aged above 55. This study is therefore a crucial way to determine if men diagnosed with prostate cancer should be encouraged to take up yoga as a way to relieve symptoms and treatment side-effects. Scientists have already completed phase one of the study, in which they sought to discover whether men undergoing radiation treatment would be willing to commence yoga. The response was overwhelming, with some four out of five men expressing a willingness to take up this practice. The second phase of the study, which will commence in 2014, involves measuring aspects such as fatigue, erectile dysfunction and general quality of life. Yoga as a Means to Alleviate Side-Effects of Disease Thus far, yoga is already being used to deal with the side-effects of diseases like breast cancer and Hepatitis C. At the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in Seattle, for instance, Bikram Yoga is used as part of the standard treatment for Hepatitis C, a viral liver infection affecting some four million people in the US alone. Many sufferers first contracted Hepatitis C by receiving blood transfusions before the year 1992; other high-risk groups include those with multiple sexual partners or those who have used IV drugs.  Poses said to benefit the liver include the Bit Toe, Cat/Cow, Cobra, Boat and Half Lord of the Fishes. Some of these poses raise the body’s temperature, therefore stimulating liver activity; others give the liver a gentle massage. While these exercises do not treat the disease itself, they have been found to alleviate associated pain and tiredness. Yoga vs Breast Cancer and Fatigue Yoga is also a popular choice for women diagnosed with breast cancer; a study published in the journal, Complementary Therapy Medicine (2009) revealed that the practice can alleviate the anxiety and stress that accompanies cancer at various stages – before and after surgery, and during radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment. Restorative yoga, in particular, has been found to improve results for mental health, depression, positive affect and spirituality. Women who had a higher negative outlook and lower emotional wellbeing derived an even greater benefit from yoga intervention. Cancer-related fatigue is another important area where yoga can help; interestingly, this type of fatigue is very different from every-day life tiredness, since it cannot be relieved by rest or sleep. Indeed, many patients report that fatigue wrests more from their quality of life than pain itself; up to 90 per cent of patients receiving radiation treatment suffer from this condition. Fatigue can also affect one’s sex life; in particular, many prostate cancer sufferers report related erectile dysfunction, in addition to urinary incontinence. Yoga vs Stress Patients often report high stress levels from the time they are diagnosed with cancer – yoga is extremely effective at helping patients manage stress; indeed, many cancer treatment facilities across the US use yoga to ease the anxiety which ensues both from diagnosis and treatment. Studies have shown that those who take part in mindfulness-based therapy devised better coping strategies for themselves and had lower tension, anxiety levels and fatigue, than those who simply attended group therapy. The idea is that patients should opt for multiple types of therapy, which can work together in a complementary fashion. Meditation and yoga can be particularly helpful at curbing the cycle of worry and promoting a state of calm and relaxation. It has also been found to improve a patient’s psychosocial adjustment to their disease and to raise levels of invigoration and acceptance.
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