Fitness Forum: Integrating Body and Mind Through Integrative Yoga

ONCNG Oncology Nursing, October 2008, Volume 2, Issue 3

Caring for patients with cancer can be stressful, so taking a little time for yourself is important

Caring for patients with cancer can be stressful, so taking a little time for yourself is important. Restorative yoga is a safe and eff ective method to relieve stress-related symptoms (including fatigue, muscle tension, and lack of mental clarity). At the end of each hatha (physical) yoga class, restorative yoga poses are done to integrate the physical and mental activities of yoga practice. A restorative yoga practice primarily will use these poses to quiet the mind, open the joints, and support the spine. Props—such as blankets, pillows, and towels—are strategically placed to support the body in the poses. The outcome of restorative yoga practice is the integration of a person’s body, mind, and spirit.

Two recent research reports demonstrate how restorative yoga helps women. In the first pilot study, 14 post-menopausal women experiencing hot flushes participated in restorative yoga classes, attending eight weekly, 90-minute classes. During the study, the women’s mean number and severity of hot fl ushes decreased. The vast majority were satisfi ed with the practice. Three months after the study, 75% of the women continued practicing restorative yoga. In the second pilot study, 29 women with ovarian and breast cancer were taught restorative yoga to evaluate whether the practice could improve their fatigue, mood, and quality of life. The restorative yoga classes lasted 75 minutes and were taught once a week for 10 weeks. Class attendance was very good, and the women reported a decrease in negativity and an increase in “peace and harmony;” no changes were found in fatigue and quality of life.

Based on these results, restorative yoga may be the right choice for you, and for your patients. Visit the Yoga Alliance website to search for a certifi ed instructor who teaches restorative yoga. The instructor should be certifi ed to teach yoga and have the necessary experience and training in the practice of restorative yoga. Patients who have cancer must check to see if the instructor has a healthcare background, such as nursing, physical therapy, or the like. For additional restorative yoga poses you can do at home, refer to Judith Lasater’s book, Relax and Renew: Restful Yoga for Stressful Times. Taking the time to learn more about restorative yoga through daily practice and reading may be a useful way to relieve stress-related symptoms in cancer patients and oncology nurses.

Lisa Marie Bernardo, PhD, MPH, RN, HFI, 200-RYT is an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing. She is a 200-hours registered yoga teacher through the Yoga Alliance.