2013 Healing Yoga for Cancer Research Pilot

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Practicing weekly yoga will potentially benefit participants through a reduction in common side effects of cancer treatment including pain, lymphedema, neuropathy, anxiety, fatigue, decreased cognitive function, digestive disturbance and sleep disturbance over the course of the eight week study. The Healing Yoga for Cancer Research study investigated the potential for yoga practices to reduce the side effects of cancer treatment. The yoga practices to be used included asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), mudra (hand gestures), mantra (chanting), relaxation, yoga nidra and meditation taught in eight weekly 90 minute sessions. The purpose of this study is to provide participants with simple yogic practices that they can do at home to help mitigate cancer treatment side effects. The purpose of the research is to expand knowledge of the effectiveness of therapeutic yoga in conjunction with medical cancer treatment in improving patients' quality of life.


The intervention protocol consisted of eight weekly 90 minute sessions conducted at the Cancer Support Community of the East Bay. The sessions were taught by a Cheryl Fenner Brown, a Certified Yoga Teacher and Professional Yoga Therapist . Each week a different topic was covered and the topics that were covered were Week 1 Yoga for Healing, Week 2 Yoga for Fatigue, Week 3 Yoga for Pain, Week 4 Yoga for Anxiety, Week 5 Yoga for Digestion, Week 6 Yoga for Insomnia, Week 7 Yoga Mental Clarity, and Week 8 Building a Home Practice.


It was shown that participants practiced the six categories of yogic methods more often throughout the study. The weekly surveys showed the following trends over the eight week period. Participants were asked how many times in the previous seven days did they practice each form of yoga. 65% of participants were already practicing some form of yoga in the week prior to the study and the average number of days participants practiced are shown. Frequency of centering went from 1.7 to 3.6 times per week, a 38% increase. Frequency of pranayama increased from 1.8-4.3 times per week, a 50% increase. Frequency of mudras increased from 0.5 to 3.0 times per week, a 50% increase. Frequency of asana increased from 1.3 to 2.4 times per week, a 22% increase. Frequency of restorative yoga increased from 0.7 to 2.6 times per week, a 22% increase. Frequency of relaxation increased from 1.5 to 3.6 times per week, a 42% increase. These results show that participants felt that they received value in practicing the yoga protocol at home between sessions.

The assessment measures used the following rating system for side effect severity (0=not at all, 1=a little bit, 2=somewhat, 3=quite a bit, and 4=very much). It was shown that participants had a reduction in the severity of measured side effects the longer they participated in the study. Severity of fatigue reduced from 2.7 to 1.5, a 24% decrease. Severity of pain reduced from 2.4 to 1.4, a 20% decrease. Severity of cognitive dysfunction decreased from 1.5 to 0.8, a 14% decrease. Severity of anxiety decreased from 1.2 to 0.8, an 8% decrease. Severity of insomnia decreased from 1.2 to 0.8, an 8% decrease. There were not enough members of the group who reported having lymphedema or neuropathy so the results for these two side effects were not significant. The participants had a combination of constipation, diarrhea and nausea and results were not significant for digestive disturbance.

Please contact Cheryl Fenner Brown, PYT for more information at cherylbrownyoga@gmail.com or visit www.yogacheryl.com.