Yoga Best Mood Booster for Breast Cancer Patients

A complete yoga protocol, designed by a yoga therapist, was compared to supportive therapy, and although both eased symptoms of depression, this study shows that yoga actually did a better job. This study is unusal for two reasons. First, the yoga protocol was delivered and practiced during treatment, while most studies look at yoga delivered post-surgery. Second, the control group was given a form of counseling therapy, defined in the article published in the Indian Journal of Palliative Care in May, as counseling sessions intended to: enrich “the patient’s knowledge of their disease and treatment options,” reduce “any apprehensions and anxiety regarding their treatment and involved interaction with the patient’s spouses,” and create “a supportive environment to facilitate the patients to express their problems, strengthen their relationships in the family and community, and find meaning in their lives.”

The yoga protocol consisted of a ten-minute discussion on the philosophical concepts of yoga and the importance of these in managing day-to-day stressful experiences, twenty minutes of easy yoga postures, yoga breathing exercises, and yogic relaxation. The subjects were then guided through any one of a number of meditation practices for the next 30 minutes. Given the preponderance of depression and anxiety in this population, the study authors chose, in my opinion, excellent meditation practices. Rather than the simple observation of the breath as is most commonly associated with mindfulness practice, they led active practices, giving the depressed/anxious mind, with its tendency to ruminate, something more concrete on which to focus. These focal points included “sounds and chants from Vedic texts, or breath awareness and impulses of touch emanating from palms and fingers while practicing yogic mudras” (hand gestures), “or a dynamic form of meditation which involved practice with eyes closed of four yoga postures interspersed with relaxation while supine, thus achieving a combination of both “stimulating” and “calming,” practices.”

Of the 98 breast cancer patients with stage II and III disease who participated, 45 were randomly assigned the yoga group and 53 began with supportive therapy over a 24-week period. Over the period of the study, participants underwent surgery, followed by radiotherapy or chemotherapy or both. According to the article, subjects were asked to practice yoga for 60 minutes daily with control group undergoing supportive therapy during their hospital visits. If home compliance to the yoga practice was less than 60%, patients were removed from the study. Beck’s Depression Inventory (BDI) and symptom checklist were assessed at baseline, after surgery, before, during, and after RT and six cycles of CT.

A total of 33 yoga and 36 therapy participants completed the 24-week protocol. The results suggest an overall decrease in self-reported depression with time in both groups. However, there was a significant decrease in depression scores in the yoga group as compared to the to the therapy group. The authors conclude that “The results suggest possible antidepressant effects with yoga intervention in breast cancer patients undergoing conventional treatment.”

“Effects of an integrated Yoga Program on Self-reported Depression Scores in Breast Cancer Patients Undergoing Conventional Treatment: A Randomized Controlled Trial,” Indian Journal of Palliative Care. 2015 May-Aug; 21(2): 174–181. doi: 10.4103/0973-1075.156486

Click here to read the full article.

About the Author

Amy Weintraub

Amy Weintraub E-RYT 500, MFA, YACEP, C-IAYT, founded the LifeForce Yoga® Healing Institute, which trains yoga and health professionals internationally, and is the author of Yoga for Depression and Yoga Skills for Therapists. The LifeForce Yoga protocol is used by health care providers worldwide. She is involved in ongoing research on the effects of yoga on mood.

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