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Yoga during/after Breast Cancer

Yoga can Impact Inflammation, Mood and Fatigue in those that have gone through Breast Cancer Treatment Low on energy after cancer treatment?

You are not alone. Anyone that has survived cancer is 2x as likely to have poor health and disabilities. This means that everyday activities become more exhausting, and this leads to frustration, decreased mood and less function over time.


One of the culprits is inflammation.

The Inflammation Cycle after Breast Cancer

Yoga has been shown to reduce inflammation, fatigue, irritability and depression, with just 10 minutes per day

So, being physically active helps reduce inflammation, and reduced inflammation leads to more energy, function and engagement.

But, what if cancer survivors don’t have enough energy to engage in more cardiovascular activities because of the fatigue? Well, that is where yoga comes in. Yoga can be a graded exercise, meaning that it can be performed in different ways to accommodate the capability of the person. Chair yoga has been gaining in popularity for many reasons, and one, is that the chair you complete the yoga in can be anything! Yoga is a practice that is over 5000 years old. It is a mind-body practice that originated in India. There are different physical postures, breathing techniques and this is combined with relaxation and/or medication. We don’t know who invented yoga, as there is no written record of the inventor, or the process of how it came to be. The more traditional yoga did not focus on fitness being the primary goal, but more on using energy to increase relaxation and mental focus.

There are different philosophical subsets of yoga, and this can be confusing for a person just starting.

· Hatha yoga · Raja yoga · Karma yoga · Bhakti yoga · Jnana yoga · Tantra yoga There are also different types of yoga, such as Iyengar yoga, which addresses correct alignment and tends to use blocks and straps. There is also Bikram yoga, also known as HOT yoga, in which a room has temperatures going up to 105 degrees with 40% humidity.

But, which one is the right one for you?

I would not recommend going into a heated room right off the bat, nor would I say that anyone type is better than another. The entire point is to begin to move your body on a slow, regular basis.

In the article, published by the American Society of Clinical Oncology in 2014, a randomized controlled trial was completed over a 12-week time period. This means that the 200 participants did not know if they were placed in the control group or the experimental group. Each person was given a questionnaire and fasting blood samples were taken. The people chosen for the study were 27-76 years old, had completed cancer treatment within the past 3 years and were at least 2 months post radiation. Plus, each participant had Stage 0 to Stage IIIa breast cancer. Blood samples were taken of all participants to measure the amount of TNF-α and IL-6, two chemical signals found in the body. There has been much debate about TNF-α specifically, however researchers do know that this helps increase tumor growth and its mobility. It also helps increase the survival of malignant cells while causing a resistance to chemotherapeutic agents.

Those women that were in the experimental group participated in two 90-minute yoga sessions per week. At the end of the 12 weeks, only 14 women dropped out of the study. When women completed the questionnaire reflective of their fatigue right after yoga, the women who did the yoga did not rate any different that women who did not do any exercise. However, three months later, those women that completed two 90-minutes sessions had much reduced levels of fatigue. Another interesting fact that the researchers learned, what that the inflammation markers found in the blood of all participants changed after three months. Those that were active in yoga, had fewer inflammation markers, including TNF-α. The researchers also found that just participating in 10 minutes per day of Yoga reduced other inflammatory markers identified in those with higher risk of breast cancer recurrence. The authors did address the idea of weight, but they did not actively measure any difference in weight of their participants. There is more research that looks at that topic. Take home message:

· Consistent work-outs, or body movements reduces inflammation in the body · Consistent movement helps increase vitality, and energy · Low-impact movement is all that is needed to get started

Reference: Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Bennett JM, Andridge R, Peng J, Shapiro CL, Malarkey WB, Emery CF, Layman R, Mrozek EE, Glaser R. Yoga's impact on inflammation, mood, and fatigue in breast cancer survivors: a randomized controlled trial. J Clin Oncol. 2014 Apr 1;32(10):1040-9. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2013.51.8860. Epub 2014 Jan 27. PMID: 24470004; PMCID: PMC3965259.