Yoga as Alternative Therapy for Cancer
What is yoga?
Yoga is an ancient mind-body health system that began in India more than 5,000 years
ago. It has been used in the United States since the 1800s. Yoga uses slow movement,
precise posture, meditation, and breathing exercises to reach a state of relaxation.
Can yoga help people with cancer?
As an additional therapy, yoga can create a sense of well-being, improve the quality
of life, provide relaxation, and reduce stress for some patients with cancer. Yoga
can be useful to relieve some symptoms associated with cancer. However, available
scientific evidence does not support yoga as an effective treatment for cancer or
any other disease. Several comprehensive cancer care centers offer yoga as an additional
How does yoga work?
Yoga classes may be offered at a cancer center, as an adult education class, or in
health clubs and community centers in your area. Also, you may consider using an instructional
book or DVD to learn proper yoga exercises and techniques.
While each yoga program is unique, some of the basic techniques are the same. They
include the following:
A yoga meditation session. This typically takes about 20 minutes to one hour
Sitting in an upright position, performing slow, gentle movements, and taking slow
deep breaths that cause the stomach to swell
Guided relaxation, meditation, chanting or thinking of a meaningful word or phrase,
The use of dietary guidelines
Are there any possible problems or complications associated with yoga?
To date, no scientific evidence exists that states that yoga can affect cancer or
any other disease. However, there are two things to consider about yoga before you
Yoga involves arranging the body into unique positions. This includes some that may
be difficult for a person with cancer. Remember, the basic principle of yoga is not
to push yourself beyond your limits.
If dietary changes are a part of the yoga program you are considering, be sure to
talk with your healthcare provider or registered dietitian first. A diet for someone
with cancer should be strictly watched and not changed unless advised by your cancer
Yoga, as an addition to your cancer treatment plan, has the potential to be pleasant
and productive. It should not replace the care and treatment provided by your cancer
care team. Always talk with your healthcare provider for more information.