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Yoga Benefits Breast Cancer Patients

Breast Cancer Resource Center Newsletter, June 2007

By Dr. Lizzie Clapham

Recently, scientific studies have proven what ancient yogis have known for centuries: the practice of yoga decreases stress and increases a sense of well-being. In fact, the MD Anderson Cancer Center of Texas recently completed a study determining that breast cancer patients who practiced yoga during the time they received radiation treatment significantly improved the quality of their life compared with patients who did not. Those patients that practiced yoga said they experienced increased physical functioning, overall health improvement, better sleep, less fatigue and were happier socially. This study shows what we all know but now have a way to quantify – yoga is an important method used to restore the body mind to its state of ease and alertness.

Yoga is an ancient discipline originating in India. The word yoga means “to join” or “to unite”. The practice joins the body and mind with the soul through physical postures, breath techniques and meditation practices. It is a simple and safe technique to stimulate the body’s own healing mechanism. Simply stated, yoga increases the parasympathetic response and decreases the stress response. The physiological benefits the body experiences include: increased strength, flexibility, decreased pulse rate, decreased blood pressure, decreased respiratory rate, improved range of motion, improved posture, improved sleep, improved balance, and improved gastrointestinal, immune and endocrine function.

Yoga has gained in popularity in the West for its physical, mental and emotional benefits and has attracted people of all levels no matter what their physical condition may be. Though initially, people will be drawn to the practice for its physical benefits, most notice an increased ability to handle daily stress and a deep sense of inner calm and peace. It is the last two advantages that become the purpose of returning to the practice.

As a doctor in pursuit of natural ways to increase health, I can attest to the beneficial dividends that yoga yields.

Dr. Lizzie Clapham is a naturopathic doctor with a practice in Santa Barbara and teaches a weekly yoga class in Carpinteria. She can be reached at 805.679.1189 or