Why Breast Cancer Survivors Should Practice Yoga

Why Breast Cancer Survivors Should Practice Yoga

Breast cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation can wreak havoc on the body. Side effects include things like anemia, hair loss and nausea. But not all side effects stop once treatment is over. Many breast cancer survivors are left battling serious -- and sometimes disabling -- fatigue years after stopping treatment. Luckily there is a glimmer of hope for women who have survived breast cancer to get their energy back. The solution: Yoga.

The Research
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology looked at 200 women between the ages of 27 and 76 who had never done yoga and who finished breast cancer treatment within the last three years. Half the women received 90-minute hatha yoga classes twice a week for 12 weeks. The rest were put on a waiting list to take the class. After just three months of practicing yoga, the participants said they noticed a change in their energy levels and sleep habits. After six months, the women who continued to practice yoga reported having nearly 60% less fatigue than those on the waiting list. They also said they got better sleep.   

But the yoga didn’t just affect their energy levels. The women in the yoga group also had between 13% and 20% less inflammation than the other women. That’s important because inflammation can disrupt your immune system and lead to chronic diseases like heart disease, arthritis and diabetes.

Why Yoga Helps
The answer isn’t cut and dry, but there are some aspects of yoga that most likely help fight fatigue. For starters, yoga is a great way to regain strength and fitness lost during cancer treatment. Yoga can also improve sleep in several ways. The practice may help boost GABA, a brain chemical that makes you feel happy and relaxed. Yoga’s meditative qualities have also been found to lower levels of stress hormone cortisol. Additionally, yogic breathing, called pranayama, has been medically proven to help reduce stress and anxiety.

Need more reasons to try yoga? The ancient practice has been found to improve flexibility, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, boost your mood, strengthen your core and improve digestion. Check out our Yoga Center to find out more of yoga’s benefits and get tips for starting your own yoga routine. 

Medically reviewed in July 2018.

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