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Powerful Benefits from Gentle Yoga
By Marilynn Larkin
Restorative yoga, also called “active relaxation,” can significantly improve the quality of life of women with breast cancer. That’s the word from Suzanne C. Danhauer, PhD, who presented the findings of her study at the Society of Behavioral Medicine’s annual meeting in San Diego last spring.
Along with her colleagues, Danhauer, an assistant professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest University Health Sciences in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, studied 44 breast cancer patients whose average age was 56. Half were randomly assigned to weekly 75-minute restorative yoga classes for 10 weeks; the other half, the control group, were put on a waiting list and offered the opportunity to take the classes after the study ended. The program included standard yoga postures that could be modified to suit patients’ capabilities, plus deep breathing and meditation.
At the end of the study, yoga class participants reported feeling more positive than the women in the control group. They also had significantly fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety and better health-related quality of life overall. “A lot of the benefits are emotional, so we see this as an adjunct to, not a replacement for, traditional medical therapy,” Danhauer explains.
She sees yoga as another way to connect for patients who have reported to her that traditional support groups are unappealing. “What’s neat is that by coming into a group like ours, they get support, but it’s on their own terms,” says Danhauer. She adds that she intends to bring the program to women in local clinics to see if the findings hold.