THURSDAY, Feb. 26, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Yoga can improve the emotional health of breast cancer patients, contends a new U.S. study.
"Given the high levels of stress and distress that many women with breast cancer experience, the opportunity to experience feeling more peaceful and calm in the midst of breast cancer is a significant benefit," lead researcher Suzanne Danhauer, of the Wake Forest University School of Medicine, said in a university news release.
The study involved 44 women with breast cancer. About a third of them were undergoing cancer treatment during the study, and the others had completed their treatment. Half were enrolled in a yoga program, and half were put on a waiting list for the program.
Women in the yoga group participated in 75-minute classes in restorative yoga -- a more passive and gentle form of yoga that uses props such as cushions and blankets for support. At the beginning and end of the study, both groups of women completed questionnaires evaluating their quality of life.
After 10 weeks of classes, the yoga participants showed greater improvements in areas of mental health such as depression, positive emotions and spirituality -- feeling calm and peaceful -- than did the women still waiting to begin the yoga program. The yoga group reported, on average, a 50 percent reduction in feelings of depression and a 12 percent increase in feelings of peace and meaning. Yoga participants also reported less fatigue than the others, the study found.
The results, which Danhauer said "are very promising and will allow us to embark on a much larger scale study," were published Feb. 24 in a special physical activity issue of the journal Psycho-Oncology.
"Evidence from systematic reviews of randomized trials is quite strong that mind-body therapies improve mood, quality of life and treatment-related symptoms in people with cancer," Danhauer said. "Yoga is one mind-body therapy that is widely available and involves relatively reasonable costs."
The American Cancer Society offers tips on coping with breast cancer.