Can Yoga breathing techniques improve the quality of life of cancer patients?

Yoga breathing techniques may improve quality of life and reduce chemotherapy side effects for cancer patients, according to a new study.
Yoga has been described as “the union of mind, body, and spirit,” which addresses physical, mental, intellectual, emotional and spiritual dimensions towards an overall harmonious state of being. So, can Yoga breathing techniques improve the quality of life of cancer patients?

In the above University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center video, you can see how new study shows that yoga exercises can help regulate stress hormones to improve the quality of life for women who suffer from breast cancer and undergo radiation therapy.

The philosophy of yoga is sometimes pictured as a tree with eight branches. These eight limbs are Asana (physical postures), Pranayama (breathing exercises), Yama (moral behavior), Dharana (concentration), Niyama (healthy habit), Dhyana (contemplation), Pratyahara (sense withdrawal), and Samadhi (higher consciousness).

Yoga may be beneficial for improving the quality of life for patients with serious diseases as well as in healthy patients. Several previous studies in cancer patients report enhanced quality of life, lower sleep disturbance, decreased stress symptoms and changes in cancer-related immune cells after patients received relaxation, meditation, and gentle yoga therapy.

In a new study, 16 cancer patients receiving chemotherapy were randomly assigned to a yoga breathing treatment group or control group. The yoga group attended weekly classes to learn four yoga breathing techniques and practiced the techniques during two consecutive cycles of chemotherapy. The control group received standard care after their first chemotherapy cycle and practiced the yoga breathing only during their second cycle. Various outcome measures, including fatigue, pain level, sleep quality, depression, stress, and quality of life were evaluated.

The researchers found that the more the yoga breathing was used, the greater the improvement in symptoms. Yoga breathing resulted in significant improvements for several outcome measures, including sleep quality, anxiety and mental quality of life.

The authors concluded that yoga breathing techniques may be beneficial for cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. Larger-scale well-designed clinical trials are needed to confirm these findings.

In addition to yoga, there is good evidence that various types of meditation may help improve the quality of life for cancer patients. Studies have shown benefits for mood, sleep quality and the stresses of treatment. The specific effects of meditation are not fully understood. However, meditation can be recommended as a form of support for cancer patients.

Yoga breathing techniques may also help reduce the massive use of currently available extended-release opioids. We know that the main reason for the current opioid abuse simply is over-consumption of intact products. Another form of abuse happens when individuals crush products to swallow active ingredients. Yoga may reduce the use of opioids and deter efforts at misuse or abuse.

There is also good evidence that psychotherapy may enhance cancer patients’ quality of life by the reduction of emotional distress and cope with the challenges and stress that come with cancer. Therapies include group therapy, cognitive therapy, or supportive-expressive therapy. Studies show conflicting results on whether a therapy is helping to improve, for example, death anxiety, self-esteem, or self-satisfaction. There are also patients who seek psychotherapy to lengthen their healthy lives and chances of survival, but it’s hard to say that there is conclusive evidence regarding the effects of psychotherapy on medical prognoses.

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