Researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine have shown that restorative yoga (RY), a very gentle form of yoga that can be practiced even when ill or fatigued, can improve the quality of life and emotional status of women with breast cancer.
Results of the study, “Restorative Yoga for Women with Breast Cancer: Findings from a Randomized Pilot Study,” were presented recently by lead investigator Suzanne Danhauer, Ph.D., at the Society of Behavioral Medicine’s annual meeting in San Diego. Danhauer was awarded the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Investigator Research Award from the Society of Behavioral Medicine for this research.
Participants in the study were 44 women with breast cancer. Half were randomly assigned to take RY classes and half were placed on a waitlist and offered the opportunity to take yoga classes at the end of the study. Participants in both groups completed measures of quality of life and emotional functioning at the beginning and again at completion of the 10-week study. Compared to the control group, the yoga group reported significantly higher health-related quality of life at the end of the intervention as measured by the Functional Assessment of Cancer Therapy-Breast (FACT-B) score, a 28-item self-report measure of quality of life in cancer patients. The FACT-B measures physical well-being, social/family well-being, emotional well-being and functional well-being. The yoga group also reported significantly lower depressive symptoms and higher positive emotions and feelings of peace and calm than the control group.
The average age of participants was 56 years (range of 38 to 79) and the majority of women were white, married or partnered, and well educated. Classes were taught by Lynn Felder from the Arts of Yoga studio in Winston Salem, NC. Ms. Felder is a certified yoga instructor who also had cancer-specific yoga training.
“This study offers additional support for the premise that RY is a promising supportive therapy for women with cancer and seems to be well accepted,” said Danhauer. “RY is an intervention that warrants further exploration of its impact on emotional function and the results add to the growing literature on benefits of participation in yoga for cancer patients.” Future studies should include more diverse populations, as well as objective measures of sleep and other physiological indicators of stress, she added.
Funding for this study was provided by the Comprehensive Cancer Center of Wake Forest University.
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