Yoga is no cure for cancer — but cancer survivors have flocked to it and many health-care professionals have embraced it. Now, through efforts at City of Hope, it’s even become a tool to raise awareness and funds for cancer research.
A practice going back thousands of years, yoga combines breathing, meditation and movement to unify mind, body and spirit. A growing body of research shows it can improve sleep, mood, distress and quality of life for cancer patients. Yoga can improve strength, boost flexibility and relieve stress, too.
|Yoga for Hope participants enjoy a gentle workout while supporting City of Hope. (Photo by Ken Conz)|
A 2008 national survey showed that nearly 7 percent of the U.S. population — 15.8 million people — practice some form of yoga. About 6 percent of those surveyed indicated a doctor or therapist recommended the practice. Its benefits and growing popularity led City of Hope to adopt yoga as a way to raise awareness.
City of Hope’s Yoga for Hope began as a local event in Seattle in 2009. Today, it also includes events in San Diego, San Francisco, Phoenix and Philadelphia, and organizers aim to extend its reach to other U.S. cities, as well. The program has raised more than $135,000 for research, treatment and education at City of Hope.
Yoga for Hope events recruit locally known yoga instructors to educate communities about the spiritual, mental and physical benefits of yoga while raising support and awareness for City of Hope.
Lisa Considine, associate vice president of development at City of Hope, helped establish Yoga for Hope. A cancer survivor, Considine also is an avid yoga student who believes yoga can benefit patients by imparting a sense of peace and serenity.
“As a survivor of multiple myeloma, yoga will always have a significant role in my lifestyle and my lifelong recovery process,” said Considine. “I’m grateful for the way that yoga has allowed me to take control of my health and well-being.”
Several scientific studies have shown that exercise helps reduce cancer risk, and evidence continues to grow. City of Hope researchers are exploring the role of exercise, including yoga, in cancer prevention.
“Recent studies have confirmed that increased physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer,” said Katherine Henderson, Ph.D., assistant research professor in the Division of Cancer Etiology. “While we are working to study this relationship further, we are happy to say that a woman can modify or maintain her physical activity to decrease her breast cancer risk.”
At City of Hope’s Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center, yoga classes (held both in English and Spanish) provide City of Hope patients and caregivers a way to help manage the emotional and physical process of treatment and recovery.
“Our yoga program has had a remarkably positive impact on our patients and families by helping to relieve joint pain, stress and fatigue,” said Linda Klein, manager in the Biller Patient and Family Resource Center. “Patients are empowered because they experience their bodies as being capable and reliable again.
“They develop an instant camaraderie, too; they share experiences and realize they are not alone. The benefits extend beyond the class, with breathing and meditation techniques to help relieve anxiety while undergoing chemotherapy or radiation, or when preparing for surgery.”
Considine hopes the Yoga for Hope program will continue to grow and benefit more patients.
“By expanding the Yoga for Hope program, we can help City of Hope teach communities about yoga’s lifelong benefits while supporting vital research,” she said.
--Alicia Di Rado contributed to this article
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, part of the National Institutes of Health, has funded research investigating yoga’s effects on many conditions:
- Blood pressure
- Chronic low-back pain
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Diabetes risk
- Immune function
- Inflammatory arthritis and knee osteoarthritis
- Multiple sclerosis
- Smoking cessation