Impact and outcomes of an Iyengar yoga program in a cancer centre

Curr Oncol. 2008 Aug;15 Suppl 2(Suppl 2):s109.es72-8. doi: 10.3747/co.v15i0.284.


Background: Individuals have increasingly sought complementary therapies to enhance health and well-being during cancer, although little evidence of their effect is available.

Objectives: We investigated how an Iyengar yoga program affects the self-identified worst symptom in a group of participants. Whether quality of life, spiritual well-being, and mood disturbance change over the Iyengar yoga program and at 6 weeks after the program. How, from a participant's perspective, the Iyengar yoga program complements conventional cancer treatment.

Patients and methods: This pre-post instrumental collective case study used a mixed methods design and was conducted at a private Iyengar yoga studio. The sample consisted of 24 volunteers (23 women, 1 man; 88% Caucasian; mean age: 49 years) who were currently on treatment or who had been treated for cancer within the previous 6 months, and who participated in ten 90-minute weekly Iyengar yoga classes. The main outcome measures were most-bothersome symptom (Measure Your Medical Outcome Profile 2 instrument), quality of life and spiritual well-being (Functional Assessment of Chronic Illness Therapy-General subscale and Spiritual subscale), and mood disturbance (Profile of Mood States-Short Form). Participant perspectives were obtained in qualitative interviews.

Results: Statistically significant improvements were reported in most-bothersome symptom (t((23)) = 5.242; p < 0.001), quality of life (F((2,46)) = 14.5; p < 0.001), spiritual well-being (F((2,46)) = 14.4; p < 0.001), and mood disturbance (F((2,46)) = 10.8; p < 0.001) during the program. At follow-up, quality of life (t((21)) = -3.7; p = 0.001) and mood disturbance (t((21)) = 2.4; p = 0.025) significantly improved over time. Categorical aggregation of the interview data showed that participants felt the program provided them with various benefits not included on the outcomes questionnaires.

Conclusions: Over the course of the Iyengar Yoga for Cancer program, participants reported an improvement in overall well-being. The program was also found to present participants with a holistic approach to care and to provide tools to effectively manage the demands of living with cancer and its treatment.

Keywords: Iyengar yoga; cancer; complementary and alternative medicine; integrative oncology; mixed methodology.