Yoga: Benefits for cancer patients
Handling the diagnosis of cancer includes experiencing the effects of the cancer itself, along with the effects that standard cancer treatments have upon both mind and body.
Fortunately, in coping with cancer, physical exercise has generally been found to benefit the patient, including improving his or her overall quality of life related and improving psychological well-being.
Even though knowing the perceived positive benefits of exercise, those with cancer may experience a number of barriers that prevent them from engaging in active physical exercise.[2,3,4] Physical discomfort and feeling crook (sick) have been listed as the top physical barriers. Fatigue and fear of overdoing the exercise, self-consciousness associated with physical appearance and body image, and low moods were some of the listed psychosocial barriers that keep some cancer patients from engaging in active physical exercise.[6,7,8]
These physical and psychosocial barriers push one out of every three adults [9, 10, 11] with cancer to seek CM (Complementary Medicine) techniques, like mindfulness, meditation and yoga to control their cancer-related symptoms.
What is Yoga?
A study done in 2008  defined yoga as a ‘mind-body’ exercise, resulting from a combination of meditation and mindful, deep breathing while doing physical poses.
The Mayo Clinic defines the core components of yoga as:
- Also referred to as ‘postures’, poses are a “series of movements designed to increase strength and flexibility”.
- Controlled breathing is vital in yoga. Controlled breathing allows you to “control your body and quiet your mind”.
- Meditation or Relaxation.Both meditation and relaxation can be incorporated into yoga. Meditation helps create mindfulness and awareness “of the present moment without judgment”. 
There are about 100 different forms of yoga from which to choose, varying in intensity and pace. Remember though, that before engaging in any new physical exercise, please consult your medical practitioner. They may have input into which type of yoga best suits your energy level and interests.
Common examples of yoga forms  are:
- Ashtanga:A series of poses, combined with a special breathing technique.
- Bikram:Faster paced and more challenging form using a series of 26 poses in a heated room; also known as “hot yoga”.
- Hatha:The most common form associated with yoga, combining a series of basic movements with breathing.
- Iyengar:A slow and gentle practice that uses props like chairs, blocks, and strap to aid your body move into the proper alignment.
- Power:A higher-intensity and faster form that promotes muscle development.
- Vinyasa:Practice that uses serially and smoothly flowing poses.
Yoga targets the core muscles, builds upper and lower arm strength, works the quads (leg muscles), hips, and thighs. It tightens the glutes (muscle that extend the hip) and builds the muscles of the back. Yoga improves your flexibility and builds (especially core) muscle strength. Best of all, it is low-impact and easy on the joints! 
However, if you have any of the following symptoms or conditions, please refer to your GP or cancer care specialist first to know if yoga is or is not for you:
- Herniated disk
- Pregnancy – some poses should be avoided
- Uncontrolled high- or low-blood pressure
- Eye conditions (e.g. glaucoma)
- Severe problem with balance
- Severe bone structure problems (Osteoporosis or spinal fractures)
- Blood condition like increased risk of blood clots 
What can Yoga do for me?
BENEFITS FOR INDIVIDUALS WITH CANCER
A meta-analysis (“a process or technique of synthesizing research results by using various statistical methods to retrieve, select, and combine results from previous separate but related evidence-based studies”)  published in 2012 reveals that yoga has been found to largely reduce depression, anxiety, and distress in cancer patients. In addition, other studies have noted that yoga not only improves conditions of cancer-related sleep problems, it also greatly boosts mood and significantly decreases levels of stress. Overall, yoga improves the quality of life of people with cancer.[17, 18, 19]
Yoga can be beneficial to improve and alleviate cancer-related conditions. Know the precautions and talk to a member of your treating team or your GP about trying yoga.
Other Useful Resources:
Yoga Classes, Cancer Council Western Australia, 2016.
Yoga Information Sheet, Cancer Council WA (PDF)
Yoga Program. Cancer Council Northern Territory, 2016.
Yoga, Body-based Practices. Council Cancer New South Wales, 2015.
1300 881 451
Exercise & Sports Science Australia
07 3862 4122