An illness can act as a trigger to find meaning in life and the following research with an integrated approach suggests some clinical evidence. Yoga offers unique benefits, beyond fighting fatigue, for women going through radiation therapy for breast cancer. The research for these findings was done was done at the Integrative Medicine Program at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. It was a collaborative effort with Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samsthana, Bengaluru, India.
The study took 191 women in stages 0-3 of breast cancer and randomly split them into three groups–generic stretching, yoga, and a control group. The first two groups were given six weeks of specially tailored classes of 60 minutes, three times a week for six weeks, This coincided with the six weeks of radiation therapy. Yoga exercises were done with controlled breathing and the sessions included meditation and relaxation techniques.
Both groups saw improvements in fatigue versus the control group which did neither activities. However, the women in the yoga group (compared to the stretching group) were more engaged in their daily activities, reported better general health, and there was measurably better regulation of the stress hormone cortisol. The last factor is deemed really important by the researchers because higher stress hormone levels throughout the day, known as blunted circadian cortisol, have been linked to worse outcomes in breast cancer.
In a the new approach to medical care, looking at the integrated body-mind-spirit, the women in the yoga group “were better equipped to find meaning in the illness experience”.
After the radiation therapy was over, tracking the women over one, three, and six-month intervals, the study reported better general health and better coping skills for the transition to everyday life after the treatment. Once again, the yoga group women “were more likely to find life meaning”.
Please visit a previous blog post for more: https://yogamedblog.wordpress.com/2012/02/09/healing-from-the-heart-with-breast-cancer/. The post has links for specific, free online audio tracks and resources.