Practicing Gentle Yoga can Ease the Side Effects of Cancer Treatment

by Contributing Writer – Jillian McKee

Yoga has been used for centuries as a method of relaxation and meditation, and more recently
it has become very popular in the West as a form of gentle exercise, but recent studies have
shown that yoga could be a very effective form of palliative care for those suffering from rare
aggressive cancers like mesothelioma that is triggered from asbestos exposure or other forms of

Palliative care refers to a form of treatment that eases pain and other side effects of a medical
condition or its primary treatment. Palliative care is by no means meant to be a cure for cancer,
so a strict yoga regimen will not alter one’s mesothelioma prognosis or cure the disease outright.
It may, however, help to alleviate the symptoms associated with chemotherapy and other
aggressive cancer treatments.

Yoga places a lot of emphasis on controlled breathing, posture, and gentle movements to
promote greater physical and mental control over one’s body. Those who practice yoga regularly
report feeling more relaxed and having an overall better feeling of well-being. Studies have
shown that cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy may experience relief from the treatment’s
often-harsh side effects from participating in two to seven yoga sessions per week for 75 to 90
minutes per session.

Doctors and researchers believe that there are several reasons why yoga has proven to be
effective as a palliative treatment. One common occurrence with patients suffering from cancer
is shallow or inefficient breathing due to the stress of having a chronic and potentially fatal
disease. Yoga emphasizes slow and controlled breathing, which has been known to reduce stress
levels and even improve one’s immune system. The slow, gentle movements of a regular yoga
regimens have been known to improve posture and flexibility. For those suffering from a disease
that can be as debilitating as mesothelioma, those slow and gentle movements can go a long way
in relieving joint and muscle pain. In addition to these rather obvious benefits of yoga, other
studies have shown that patients who practice the art as a palliative treatment are less depressed,
have fewer problems with insomnia, and are generally far more comfortable than those who
undergo chemotherapy or similar treatments for their cancer without the benefit of palliative care
or regular exercise.

As with all palliative cares, yoga is by no means meant as a cure or primary treatment of cancer,
but it may help to improve the quality of a cancer patient’s life. For many, that can be enough.


Jillian McKee is a yoga enthusiast and cancer activist.
She works as the Complementary Medicine Advocate at the
Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. Her time is spent mostly on outreach
efforts and spreading information on complementary and alternative
medicine use in cancer treatment. You can contact her at and check out the Cancer Alliance at
@canceralliance on Twitter and


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