Side effects of receiving treatment for prostate cancer can include urinary dysfunction and fatigue, with around 50% of men experiencing significant tiredness at some point during chemotherapy, and around one third experiencing numbness or weakness in their extremities, which can interfere with function.
The millenary practice of yoga is increasingly being seen as having the potential to improve some of these symptoms, with a recent clinical trial showing promising results. In this post we discuss the study, discovering other ways in which yoga is being used during cancer recovery, primarily as a way to relieve stress.
Yoga Lessens Fatigue and Improves Function
The study, carried out by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, found that men who attended yoga twice a week while they were receiving radiation treatment for prostate cancer had less fatigue, but also better sexual and urinary function, than a control group who did not take part in yoga.
The study, published in the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, and Physics, was the first randomized trial of its kind. Researchers noted that yoga was particularly useful as treatment for prostate cancer went on, since when they commenced radiation therapy, fatigue was usually low, but rose in the middle stages of treatment.
Breathing, Asanas, and Savasana
The sessions involved a blend of pranayamic breathing, centering exercises, various exercises (sitting, standing, and reclining), as well as five minutes of Savasana (often used a the final pose of classes). Savasana involves lying down with one’s legs straight and arms at one’s side, during which one breathes naturally and focuses on ridding the body of stress. Participants focus on relaxing muscles, calving nerves, and obtaining a calmer state of mind.
Yoga’s Use in Cancer Recovery
Other cancers for which yoga is a popular complementary therapy include liver cancer, for whom a healthy, organic diet and moderate exercise can help support the immune system and enhance treatment efficiency. Because pain, fatigue and nausea are frequent symptoms of liver cancer, yoga (which has been proven to lower levels of stress hormone, cortisol) can help deal with the stress posed by these symptoms.
Both liver and prostate cancer tend to arise in the 60s; yoga is an interesting activity for seniors and younger adults alike because it can be adapted to all levels and can also be practiced using a chair and other support systems when necessary.
Yoga has also been used successful with women receiving radiotherapy for breast cancer, with studies showing that yoga intervention can significantly decrease psychological distress, fatigue, insomnia, and appetite loss. Activity levels are also improved through regular practice.
Yoga is a healing system of theory and practice that combines pranayamic (or controlled) breathing, physical postures (or asanas) and mindfulness meditation. In many studies, it has been shown to help deal with stress and pain, which are two common side effects of cancer and its treatments. Thus far, it has proven to improve both emotional wellbeing and improve functioning in patients with prostate cancer, indicating that it may prove to be a useful complementary therapy.