University of Pennsylvania Health System

Focus on Cancer

Friday, November 16, 2012

Research Shows Yoga is More Than Just Physical Postures

Sat Bir S. Khalsa, Ph.D
Sat Bir S. Khalsa, Ph.D
Sat Bir S. Khalsa, Ph.D. recently presented “Yoga Research: Past, Present and Future” to the Integrative Oncology Working Group of Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center. Dr. Khalsa is an assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School. Khalsa provided an overview of the evolving field of yoga research, especially in the areas of stress management and the use of yoga as a therapeutic intervention. As Dr. Khalsa explained, yoga research has been going on since the 1920s, and has been looking at everything from the physiology of meditation to the positive impact of a yoga practice on mood and anxiety.

The bottom line is that there is significant evidence on many levels that mind-body practices such as yoga elicit the “relaxation response,” which is opposite of what you experience during a “stress response.”

Five percent of yoga students enrolled in beginner’s yoga programs that were willing to complete a survey reported that their doctor had recommended that they take yoga. Yoga has become so popular in the United States that it has become part of our culture,” said Khalsa as he addressed a crowd of scientists, clinicians, nurses and others in the healthcare field. However, that popularity reaches a restricted segment of the population, and it would be ideal if everyone could benefit from the preventive and therapeutic aspects of these practices.

How can this be done? Dr. Khalsa reported on the following:
  • Conduct high quality research on the psychophysiological and therapeutic benefits of yoga practice that will provide the evidence base to justify inclusion of yoga into our education and healthcare systems.
  • Since the majority of serious and persistent conditions have child-adolescent onsets,there is a growing need and interest to bring the practice of yoga into the schools to teach school age children how to cope with stress and anxiety. This could have positive and lasting changes in behavior, mental health, attention, academics and physical health of our children.
  • Provide yoga programs with trained and certified instructors within the clinical setting, such as the Yoga Program offered at the Abramson Cancer Center, to help balance the stress and anxiety associated with a cancer diagnosis and treatment.
  • Educate clinical staff about the importance of yoga and provide referral sources and resources to help clinicians educate their own patient base.
While the popularity of yoga has really exploded over the past several years it is important to know that yoga is not just a form of physical exercise, but an ancient practice with multiple practices that affect the individual holistically including the body, breath, mind, emotions and spirit.

What’s most exciting is that the benefits of yoga are understood by many who practice and that this is being offered as an integrative and therapeutic program many healthcare settings. It is Dr. Khalsa’s prediction that programs such as the one recently started at the Abramson Cancer Center will grow and there will be increasing opportunity to prove the benefits that yoga has on areas such as fatigue reduction, symptom management and sleep disturbances of the cancer patient.

The beauty of the yoga practice is that it provides a skill set that lasts a lifetime.

Join the Abramson Cancer Center for Free Yoga

Yoga is offered at the Abramson Cancer Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2 to 3 pm, free of charge, to patients. Please contact Fern Nibauer-Cohen (Fern.Nibauer-Cohen@uphs.upenn.edu) 215-662-3919 for more information.

1 comment:

  1. When I was doing chemo treatments last year, it might have been nice to have it piped in over the tv in my individual chemo treatment room. I have since discovered yoga after chemo and fully intend to keep practicing it now. Also should be part of handout at chemo treatment rooms about the program. I don't remember seeing this, just the Reiki massage.

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