Benefits of yoga in healthy women and cancer survivors

Researchers from Oregon Health & Science University, in Portland report positive results in healthy women.

Then, we review yoga in cancer, with emphasis in breast cancer patients.

First, the details.

  • 37 healthy women experiencing hot flashes were randomized to a treatment group for 8 weeks.
    • Yoga of Awareness program (gentle yoga poses, meditation, and breathing exercises)
    • Wait-list control
  • Daily reports of hot flashes were recorded at the start of the study, the end of treatment, and 3 months later.

And, the results.

  • At the end of treatment
    • Women in the yoga program showed significantly greater improvements in hot-flash frequency, severity, and in levels of joint pain, fatigue, sleep disturbance, symptom-related bother, and vigor.
  • At 3 months follow-up
    • Patients maintained their treatment gains in hot flashes, joint pain, fatigue, symptom-related bother, and vigor.
    • There were additional significant improvements in negative mood, relaxation, and acceptance.

The bottom line?

Let’s look at the evidence in 3 groups of women

  • Otherwise healthy postmenopausal women
  • Cancer in general
  • Breast cancer patients

Aside from this study, in otherwise healthy postmenopausal women there are mixed conclusions, as discussed here and here.

Researchers from Queen’s University, in Kingston, Ontario reviewed the research on yoga and patients with cancer and concluded there were some positive results. However, differences among studied limited the extent to which yoga could be considered effective for managing cancer-related symptoms.

Here’s a summary of 5 studies in breast cancer patients. Each reports positive results.

Restorative yoga — a gentle type of yoga

  • Mental health, depression, positive affect, and spirituality (peace/meaning) improved.
  • Women with higher negative affect and lower emotional well-being derived greater benefit from the yoga compared to the patients who did not practice yoga.

Integrated yoga program

  • There was improvement in positive affect, social function, and global quality of life.

Yoga during radiotherapy

  • There was significant improvement between morning salivary cortisol level (a sign of less stress) and anxiety and depression.

Early breast cancer

  • There was significantly less self-reported anxiety in the yoga group compared to controls.

Menopausal symptoms in breast cancer survivors

  • Women in the yoga awareness program showed significantly greater improvements in hot-flash frequency and severity, and in joint pain, fatigue, sleep disturbance, symptom-related bother, and vigor vs the control group.
  • The benefits were maintained 3 months later.

1/18/10 22:06 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.