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Evaluation of an Iyengar yoga intervention for women with cancer



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Introduction: Cancer poses a substantial burden on the health of Canadians. Although advancements in screening and treatment have reduced, cancer-related morbidity and quality of life remain important concerns throughout cancer treatment and survivorship. Purpose: This study examined the impact of Iyengar yoga on quality of life and other cancer-related symptoms among people with cancer. Methods: All individuals registered for the Fall 2006 and Winter 2007, 10-week Iyengar yoga programs, offered by CancerCare Manitoba through private donations, were invited to participate in the study. Participants were asked to complete standard self-report questionnaires and participant diaries at baseline, week-5, week-10, and 6 weeks following the last class. The intervention’s impact on study outcomes were determined using repeated measures ANOVAs and paired samples t-tests. Six participant interviews and a review of participant diaries were conducted and analyzed using categorical aggregation and direct interpretation to identify other relevant issues as raised by participants and to document any negative effects of the program.Results: Nineteen female participants completed the yoga intervention. The mean age of the sample was 50 years and the majority self-identified as Caucasian. Approximately one third had breast cancer and 63% were undergoing treatment for cancer at baseline. Results from the questionnaires showed statistically significant improvements in quality of life, mood disturbance, spiritual well-being, anxiety, nausea, pain, participants’ most bothersome symptom at baseline, and trait anxiety. Results from the interviews and participant diaries showed that participants experienced increases in social support, relaxation, mental concentration, and in flexibility, strength, and mobility in problem areas. Participants also expressed that their Iyengar yoga practice was empowering and supported their need to take an active role in their health and take a holistic approach to care. It was suggested that Iyengar yoga might contribute to the benefits reported through an ability to facilitate the development of coping skills or mindfulness.Conclusions: The Iyengar yoga program for people living with cancer offered by CancerCare Manitoba can be considered a complex, multi-level, multi-modal intervention. Although, due to design limitations, neither causality nor a dose-response relationship between the Iyengar yoga intervention and the improvements in cancer-related outcomes could be inferred, the present study lends support to the assertion that Iyengar yoga is beneficial to the well-being of those living with cancer.



Spiritual well-being, Quality of Life, Mixed-Methods, Psychosocial Oncology, Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Iyengar yoga, Cancer



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Community Health and Epidemiology


Community Health and Epidemiology


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