Iyengar Yoga Promotes Well-Being in Cancer Survivors

May 16, 2007

Last year alone some 213,000 women were diagnosed with breast cancer. The good news is that 2 million women have survived. Many women with breast cancer seek complementary interventions that will enhance their quality of life. However, research is lacking about whether programs such as yoga also benefit immune function.

A new study of breast cancer survivors practicing Iyengar yoga—a form of yoga that incorporates all of the components of physical fitness and focuses on structural body alignment as well as mental relaxation—has found that breast cancer survivors who practice yoga experience changes in the way their immune cells respond to activation signals. This may be important for understanding how physical activity and meditative practices benefit the immune system. The function of genes in immune cells can be regulated by proteins called transcription factors.

Active practice of Iyengar yoga, named for its creator B.K.S. Iyengar, differs from the gentle restorative practices typically offered to cancer survivors as it can include all the components of physical fitness. The active practice of asanas (postures) can incorporate cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility and balance. Nineteen women, average age 61 years, participated in the study. All had been diagnosed with stage I-III breast cancer, were 4 years out of diagnosis and had received antiestrogen or aromatase inhibitor hormonal therapy. None had any experience with Iyengar yoga. The subjects were randomized to either yoga (n=10) or a wait-list control group (n=9).

Beginning level Iyengar yoga classes were conducted two times per week for 8 weeks and included the following: standing poses, chest and shoulder openers and inversions. The women were given an instruction sheet to practice once a week at home for a total of three yoga sessions per week. Researchers also took a survey of the subjects’ illness demands and a blood sample to determine lymphocyte NF-κB activation (a transcription factor linked to immune cell activation and stress response) prior to and following the intervention.

Preliminary findings indicate:
* Demands of illness, which reflects the burden and hardship of breast cancer survivorship, decreased following yoga participation.
* Compared with pre-intervention responses, women who participated in yoga had lower stimulated lymphocyte NF-κB activation after 8 weeks of yoga than did the control group.
* Decreases in demands of illness were associated with decreased lymphocyte NF-κB activation, but only in the yoga participants.

This study demonstrates that an active yoga practice taught in the Iyengar tradition can be successfully offered to breast cancer survivors who are approximately four years out from initial cancer diagnosis and who are receiving certain types of hormonal therapy. It also shows that the program can have important psychological benefits for breast cancer survivors.

© 2015 by IDEA Health & Fitness Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission is strictly prohibited.

0 Comments

Trending Articles

Eight Fascinating Facts About Fascia

Fascia has been enjoying the limelight in the fitness industry as one of the hottest topics in recent conference programming, workshops and ...

Nutrition Strategies for Stress and Pain Management

Stress and pain diminish quality of life for millionsofAmericansandcostbillionsin healthcare expenses and lost wages.

Cardio and Creative Core

Group fitness participants can’t seem to get enough of creative core and cardiovascular exercises. If you need innovative ideas to cha...

Wake Up Your Glutes!

It’s a sad fact of modern life that the gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in the body, often becomes inhibited and “turns off.” Ironically, this inhibition can be the culprit behin...

Concurrent Training Can Jeopardize Strength Gains

A lot of people do concurrent training— cardio and strength training within the same session—because it seems to achieve multiple goals at the same time. It’s also a proven fat-burne...

Sample Class: Farmhand Fitness

Several years ago, I attended an IDEA World Fitness Convention™ session led by Michol Dalcourt, director of the Institute of Motion. D...

A Back-Pain Solution

Starting with the basics. Personal trainer Jamal Younis first met 38-year-old Jessica in August 2014. Jessica, a former competitive collegia...

Playing Hurt

When Gray Cook was a high-school athlete, his coaches would comment, “That Gray Cook sure can play hurt.” He had over 20 fractures before he was 18, what with his love of football and moto...

Excessive Thoracic Kyphosis: More Than Just Bad Posture

Excessive thoracic kyphosis (ETK) is a disproportionate forward rounding or curvature of the middle and upper back, also known as the thorac...

Functional Strength Training Combinations

Functional training essentially involves moving the body through different planes of motion while working multiple muscle groups and challenging balance. This Add It Up! strategy includes an upper-bod...

Next