Yoga may help in mind-body healing from cancer


yogaYoga may help people with cancer face the fear and uncertainty of the disease, a growing body of research suggests.

Cancer treatment and defeating it often take precedence over addressing emotional needs, such as what the diagnosis means to a person's life and plans, family, retirement and future, said Linda Carlson, a psychologist who teaches yoga and studies it effects on patients.

Carlson says yoga participants tend to have less tension, sleep better and carry fewer stress hormones.

"People felt happier, they had more energy, they were less confused, sort of mentally confused," said Carlson, of the Alberta Cancer Board. "So there was a whole array of benefits and it was a fairly large effect."

There is growing evidence that the ancient practice may be a good fit for cancer patients, even during treatment, said Edmonton-based Kerry Courney, the Canada research chair in cancer and exercise.

"I think many of the yoga programs are a little more gentler, and [there are] things that cancer patients feel that they're capable of doing," Courney said. "It might be an amount of exercise that is more appropriate when you're going through the difficult treatments."


Studies on breast cancer survivors have shown that yoga may improve flexiblity and arm function after surgery, along with improvements in body image and self-esteem, reduced fatigue and pain control, Courney said.

The main risk is in overdoing it, such as overstretching areas that might be healing, he said, although there is less concern about injuries from the low-impact exercise.  

The mind-body connection of yoga also helps to move patients past questions like "Why me?" Carlson said.

Robert Boutillier, a prostate cancer survivor in Calgary, considers yoga a life saver.

"We'd spend you know the 20 minutes or half an hour meditating, and you'd walk out of there feeling, 'I can handle this,'" Boutillier said.

Boutillier said he is grateful for the diagnosis, which has made him appreciate life more fully compared with his early days that were filled with fear, blame and stress.

source - CBC 


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