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Yoga and Breast Cancer Survivors?Question of the Month

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA on May 18, 2011

Mind-Body-Spirit News

Consistent practice of an Iyengar yoga routine helped breast cancer survivors reduce fatigue and improve mood and quality of life in a pilot study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (2011;doi:10.1155/2011/623168). Persistent fatigue that includes physical, mental and emotional exhaustion is an ongoing challenge for up to one-third of breast cancer survivors for months or even years after medical treatment is over. Since little research has been done on treatments for cancer-related fatigue, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles, undertook a pilot study to evaluate the feasibility and efficacy of a yoga intervention.

Investigators enrolled 12 women aged 45–65 who were survivors of breast cancer with no recurrence. Subjects participated twice a week for 12 weeks in 90-minute Iyengar yoga classes that included postures and breathing exercises specifically designed for breast cancer survivors. The researchers assessed fatigue levels and mood, sleep, pain, health-related quality of life and physical function at the beginning and end of the intervention and 3 months later. One participant did not complete the program.

Data analysis showed a significant improvement in fatigue scores, which was maintained at the 3-month follow-up. Subjects also improved in physical function, mood and quality of life. One participant commented, “[I have] more energy, fatigue later rather than sooner, feel better in general, feel stronger.” Another noted that, “There’s been enough progress, subtle and incremental, to believe that I can get much better.”

Limitations of the study included its very small size and the lack of a control group. Also, expectations might have impacted the outcome, since subjects knew that the yoga program was designed to increase energy. Study authors are in the process of conducting a larger randomized controlled trial to address some of these issues. To learn more about the ongoing study, go to

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About the Author

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, was the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at