Healing benefits of yoga

yogaHelping breast cancer patients sleep better

Contributed by Geraldine Wu, MD

The benefits of yoga are well known—strength, flexibility, posture, relaxation and concentration, to name just a few. But did you know that this 5,000-year-old practice also helps improve the quality of sleep for breast cancer patients and survivors? That’s right. A recent study found that women with a history of breast cancer reported significant improvements in sleep quality and sleep duration when they attended yoga sessions twice per week. And women who incorporate medical yoga into their traditional breast cancer treatment find side effects to be better tolerated, thus improving their quality of life.

Sleep disturbances common for breast cancer patients and survivors

There are a number of reasons why so many breast cancer patients and survivors suffer from sleep disturbances. These include everything from anxiety about a cancer diagnosis to related health problems to side effects of treatments including surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and hormone therapy. Unfortunately, these sleep problems are both underdiagnosed and undertreated in cancer survivors. This, despite the fact that 90 percent of yoga study participants said they found the practice of yoga useful for improving sleep quality, and 63 percent said they would highly recommend it to other cancer survivors.

What do you do at a yoga session?

Yoga therapy designed for breast cancer patients contain a series of postures which help physically strengthen the patient as well as stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is associated with the relaxation response. Cancer tends to make people feel diminished—the breathing and meditation techniques taught in yoga therapy can have a calming effect and help women build inner strength to endure the physical and emotional challenges breast cancer has brought to their lives.

Improved sleep just one of yoga’s benefits

Research has also shown breast cancer patients have found that yoga works in simple yet profound ways. It helps improve physical functioning, reduce fatigue and stress, and improve overall quality of life. So what are you waiting for? Why not give yoga a try!

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