The Benefits of Yoga: A Look at the Evidence

by Suzanne Tham, Cancer Support Community MSW Intern 

The Cancer Support Community has many interesting healthy lifestyle programs, and yoga was one of the first that caught my eye. Having had the privilege to participate in one session, I felt right away that it rejuvenated my tired body and mind. While many people would assume it to be primarily for recreation, yoga is also scientifically proven to be beneficial for people impacted by cancer.

Texts indicate that yoga originated in India and has been practiced for approximately 4,000 years. The term yoga is derived from the Sanskrit verb yug, which means to bind or join. This refers to the goal of yoga, which is to unite the mind and body in a way that promotes health. The key elements of yoga include breathing, exercises postures, gentle movement, breath awareness, and relaxation.


Literature shows promising results of yoga in pain management from a biological, social and psychological perspective[1]. Yoga in cancer patients has shown positive effects such as improving psychological well-being, reducing stress and anxiety, and improving quality of life.[2]

For example, a recent randomized control trial demonstrated a positive influence of yoga on depression in breast cancer patients receiving chemo and radiation. Those participating in yoga showed greater reduced depression from their baseline than those in the control group. According to the authors, the antidepressant effects of the yoga intervention could be explained by a combination of psychophysiological, nervous system, and neuroendocrine responses.[3] Yoga has an important role to play in the palliative setting as well. A 2007 study of yoga in individuals with metastatic cancer reported a decrease in pain and fatigue and an increase in relaxation.[4]

After a look at the evidence, yoga shows potential benefits in various stages of cancer, its treatment, and emotional effects (which we know may affect both patients and their loved ones). If you are interested in exploring these benefits yourself, please feel free to drop in for a yoga class at any of the times listed below. We hope you will sense the change in your body, mind, and soul.

At the Cancer Support Community:

  • Wednesdays 11 am-12:15 pm
  • Wednesdays 6-7 pm
  • Fridays 11 am-12 pm

At offsite partner locations:

  • Mondays 6-7 at the St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea Physical Therapy Gym
  • Wednesdays 6-7 pm at the St. Joseph Mercy Canton Cancer Center Community Room



[1] Wren AA, Wright MA, Carson JW, Keefe FJ (2011) Yoga for persistent pain: New findings and directions for an ancient practice. Pain 152: 477-480.

[2] Lin KY, Hu YT, Chang KJ, Lin HF, Tsauo JY (2011) Effects of yoga on psychological health, quality of life, and physical health of patients with cancer: A meta-analysis. Evidence Based Complement Alternative Med 2011: 659876.

[3] Rao RM, Raghuram N, Nagendra HR, Usharani MR, Gopinath KS, et al. (2015) Effects of an integrated yoga program on self-reported depression scores in breast cancer patients undergoing conventional treatment: A randomized controlled trial. Indian J Palliat Care 21: 174-181.

[4] Carson JW, Carson KM, Porter LS, Keefe FJ, Shaw H, et al. (2007) Yoga for women with metastatic breast cancer: Results from a pilot study. J Pain Symptom Manage 33: 331-341.


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