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Iyengar Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors

At a recent nursing research conference held in Washington D.C. Dr. Mel Haberman reported on 2 studies with 31 breast cancer survivors. The purpose of the study was to determine if participating in yoga would increase the immune response and quality of life of women with breast cancer who were at least 8 weeks post chemotherapy.

The women participated in yoga classes for 90 minutes twice per week and yoga at home for a total of 8 weeks. The Master Yoga Instructor was also a breast cancer survivor. They measured many physiological measures of the immune system and quality of life by a survey designed for women with breast cancer. They also measured anxiety and depression and social support.

Eleven women completed the study. There was a 56% improvement in lymphocytes (cells that help fight breast cancer cells). All scales on the quality of life scale improved for the women. Symptoms improved (especially in cognitive and menopausal symptoms). The women also expressed a decrease in anxiety, an improvement in pain, an improvement in personal meaning and social relationships.

Although this is a small study with only one type of yoga, there appears to be more and more literature that supports the role of exercise and the use of complimentary therapies in the recuperation of any cancer survivor.
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