The body of evidence on therapeutic effects of yoga interventions for cancer patients and survivors is robust and growing. A literature search on “yoga” and “cancer” in the U.S. National Library of Medicine (PubMed) yielded 435 results including observational studies, systematic reviews, and clinical trials. Although a full literature review is beyond the scope of this paper, the studies summarized here suggest yoga can not only help adult cancer patients and survivors manage symptoms and side effects, but also help them lead longer, healthier lives.
While studies on yoga for cancer populations vary in their methods and sample sizes, this overview of medical research incorporates systematic reviews and randomized controlled trials whenever possible. The studies summarized herein provide substantial evidence on the benefits of cancer-specific yoga interventions at clinically meaningful endpoints. The research includes a variety of cancers and stages (although breast cancer has been the most studied) and observes patients before, during, and after treatment. While yoga is no cure-all, there is substantial evidence that well-crafted interventions have measurable positive effects on health and healing.
Ample research suggests yoga interventions increase strength and flexibility; improve balance and mobility; lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels; support healthy body weight; improve psychological well-being; lessen fatigue; improve sleep; reduce anxiety and stress; improve quality of life; and enhance the immune system. These effects have been explored in both healthy populations and among people with a variety of diseases and disorders including chronic pain, arthritis, heart conditions, multiple sclerosis, PTSD, depression, anxiety, addictions, and cancers.