May 10, 2011

Yoga Becoming Popular Among Cancer Patients. ~ Krista Peterson

For many cancer patients, finding time for relaxation and peace can be extremely difficult. A routine of treatments, therapy and constant visits to multiple physicians can take even more of a toll on patients than the normal rigors of a terminal illness. In recent times, there’s been a growing use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) for cancer patients. With this growing use of complementary treatments, yoga has quickly become one of the most popular options in alternative therapies for these patients. 

Along with meditation, yoga provides these cancer patients with the opportunity for that rare time of silence and relaxation. It’s in this time that major mental and physical healing can occur. Essentially as a way to quiet the mind and open up the body to movement, yoga allows patients to reduce stress and to also allow the body to become less tense and more flexible.

The ability to have an effect on both the mental and physical state of a patient is one of the reasons that yoga has gained such popularity as a complementary treatment option. For many of these cancer patients, their body’s can be beaten and heavily affected not only from the diseases they’ve endured, but also from the side effects of their routine treatment such as chemotherapy. The ability to take on yoga will help in the body’s flexibility and in turn, relieving some of the physical issues that may come up as a side effect of normal treatment. Some of the common chemo side effects that are somewhat alleviated by yoga include nausea, vomiting, pain and diarrhea. Yoga provides great help in reducing these problems.

For many patients and survivors, the proof is in their stories. One great example involves mesothelioma survivor Paul Kraus. Mesothelioma is a form of cancer that invades the lining of the organs in the chest and abdomen area as a result of asbestos exposure. Following his diagnosis in 1997 Kraus implemented an alternative treatment plan that included a rigorous diet, exercise and mind clearing therapies such as yoga and meditation. He used this plan to outlive what was expected by nearly 14 years, into 2011 and is still living. This is particularly impressive considering the average mesothelioma life expectancy is between eight and 14 months on average.

Research has largely been focused throughout the decade over the success that yoga can have with breast cancer patients, but recent studies have bridged the gap of positive influence between yoga and many different forms of cancer. Representatives at the National Taiwan University released a 2011 meta-analysis that was formulated to show whether yoga had an effect on the physical and psychological health of cancer patients. Researchers compared the yoga participating groups with those who weren’t involved with yoga and found that participating patients experienced major advantages in psychological health. There will be continued research into the physical benefits, but in many cases, patients have been able to improve their flexibility and range of motion regularly.

Certainly there are a number of other success stories out there with the use of yoga as a complementary and alternative medicine for cancer patients. Its ability to allow time to clear the mind and affect the mental state positively, as well as the physical state will continue to make it an even more popular therapy option for patients with cancer and terminal illness.  As further research is taken to prove the scientific value of yoga as a complementary option in cancer treatment, it will certainly lead to a greater impact within the medical community.

Krista Peterson is a recent college graduate and aspiring writer. As a health and safety advocate, she shares a strong passion for the wellness of others in her community. Krista has been practicing yoga for 3 years and loves to encourage others to do so as well. Through her writings, she helps to spread awareness of such issues as cancer and chronic illness.

Photo credits: Yoga twist, Stress, Healing
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