Tibetan Yoga Helps Reduce The Adverse Effects Of Chemotherapy

Practicing Tibetan yoga may improve the quality of sleep of breast cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy according to a September 2017 MD Anderson news release.

University of Texas researchers working at the MD Anderson Cancer Center conducted a study to see whether practicing Tibetan yoga three times a week can better the quality of sleep and lessen sleep disturbances in patients with breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.

The monthly medical journal, Cancer, published the study, which found women practicing Tibetan yoga twice a week over time at least experienced, better sleep efficiency and quality, and fewer daytime difficulties compared to women in an active control group receiving standard care and women who were practicing less often.

Fatigue and sleep problems are two of the most weakening and common side effects of chemotherapy. Other lesser side effects patients often feel following chemotherapy include excessive drowsiness, insomnia, and poor sleep quality.

According to the Cancer journal, “past studies have established that yoga with extreme effectiveness, lessens sleeping difficulties in cancer patients, but this did not include long-term follow-up and control groups” “This study was hoping to address past research limitations.”

The study was done at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, which included the participation of 227 women all suffering from breast cancer who were receiving chemotherapy at the same cancer center.  The women were randomly divided into three groups: a waiting list control group that received standard care, a basic-stretching program group, and a Tibetan yoga group. The stretching program group and Tibetan yoga group participated in four 75- to 90-minute classes during their chemical therapies.

The Tibetan yoga program group underwent individualized training by a veteran instructor. The training involved postures, meditation, visualization, and controlled breathing. Patients were advised to practice every day.

Before embarking on the interventions, the patient subjects answered baseline questionnaires and wore an actigraph watch that measured their activity and rest cycles, 24/7, to evaluate quality of sleep. Follow-up evaluations were performed a week after the end of intervention as and 3, 6, and 12 months after.

Fatigue and sleep problems were measured using the Brief Fatigue inventory and Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. To time sleep durations, the subjects wore also actigraphs 24/7 at each study time point.

In total fatigue levels and sleep disturbances over time, there was no significant statistical difference between the groups although the Tibetan yoga group experienced reduced everyday disturbances a week after treatment compared to the other groups.

In addition, longstanding sleep advantages over time were evidenced in the group that practiced Tibetan yoga for a minimum twice a week compared to those who practiced less often. The Tibetan yoga group experienced less daily problems three months after treatment, as well as better sleep efficiency and quality six months after treatment. Three months after, this group felt less daily problems and enhanced sleep efficiency six months in relation to the control standard care group.

The journal commented that although the influences of this intervention were moderate and not significant, it makes a good case for the practice of Tibetan yoga in women with breast cancer who were getting chemotherapy. At the very least, it helps improve sleep quality.

The research and effects were restricted by a number of factors, some of which include difficulties in recruiting patients undergoing chemotherapy and inadequate blinded group assignments that led to a mere 56 % rate of participation.

Future studies are planned that will concentrate on shorter in-class teaching and more patient participation in the practice of yoga outside of teaching classes.

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