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It’s no secret that yoga can create relax the mind and body, but a new study published in Journal of Clinical Oncology states that this centuries-old workout may actually regulate stress hormones in women with breast cancer.
Researchers at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center divided 191 women who were diagnosed with stages 0-3 of this disease into three groups — yoga, simple stretching or no instruction in yoga or stretching. Over the course of their six-week radiation period, the participants were asked to rate their “quality of life,” which included their levels of fatigue and depression, as well as their sleep habits and their ability to function in their everyday lives.
In order to measure their stress levels, the medical gurus received this information via electrocardiogram (ECG) tests and salvia samples at various times throughout the experiment — at the beginning of the study, at the end of the radiation treatments and at the one-, three- and six-month marks post-treatment.
And here’s what they discovered — the women who practiced yoga showed the “sharpest decline” of cortisol levels (a.k.a. the stress hormone) compared to the women in the other two groups. The yoga ladies also reported less fatigue and feeling an improvement in overall health. There was an emotional difference, as well — they felt they had also found the meaning behind their illness, while the other patients did not.
"Combining mind and body practices that are part of yoga clearly have tremendous potential to help patients manage the psychosocial and physical difficulties associated with treatment and life after caner beyond the benefits of simple stretching,” said Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., Professor and Director of the Integrative Medicine Program at MD Anderson Cancer Center, as reported by Medical News Today. “"The transition from active therapy back to everyday life can be very stressful as patients no longer receive the same level of medical care and attention. Teaching patients a mind-body technique like yoga as a coping skill can make the transition less difficult."
After all, the word yoga comes from the Sanskrit root yuj, which means “to join, to unite.”