The role of yoga in disease prevention has been extensively studied. I have looked at the scientific study-based evidence for the role of Yoga and meditation in cancer and diabetes patients during my research on my books on natural solutions for these two diseases. Here are some highlights from that research.
Diet and exercise are prescribed for cancer prevention and disease prevention in general. They are adjuncts to cancer treatment. Mind-body therapies are being mainstreamed into cancer treatment. These seek to reduce pain, anxiety, insomnia, nausea, hot flashes, and mood improvement.
Ayurveda and TCM emphasize the ability of the body to self-heal. It is now understood that the neural system constantly goes through a cycle of death and renewal. Neurons die, and new neural connections are created. Kandel, the neuropsychiatrist awarded the Nobel Prize in 1990, found that if we do not use neural connections, they begin to shrink and die. We do appear to have the ability to reshape our brains.
Fatigue in cancer survivors disrupts normal functioning and quality of life. Nonpharmacologic approaches are being tried to provide relief (Bower et al., 2014). A systematic review of articles and studies on the health impact of Yoga shows that its’ practice helps in weight control and reduction of blood pressure, blood lipids, and blood sugar. (Yang, K., 2007; Youngwanichsetha, S. et al., 2014)
Nine studies on cancer patients and survivors showed modest improvements in sleep quality, mood, stress, cancer-related distress, cancer-related symptoms, and overall quality of life (Bower et al., 2005). Breast cancer patients who practiced yoga showed positive results (Smith et al., 2009, Mustian et al., 2010).
Yoga practices by cancer survivors 65 years and older helped reduce cancer-related physical and mental fatigue and reduced side effects (Sprod et al., 2015). A 7-week yoga program by breast cancer survivors showed improved quality of life and physical parameters (Culos-Reed et al., 2004). The beneficial effects of yoga were observed in patients who had not been exposed to chemotherapy (Moadel et al., 2007).
Diabetic individuals who performed pranayama felt a sense of well-being in 7 to 10 days of practice. Demand for insulin and other diabetes control medicine dropped. In this trial, four types of pranayama were practiced for 30 minutes, followed by 10 minutes of resting yoga posture called Shavasana (a dead person pose posture). (Sahay, B.K., 2007)
In addition to breathing exercises, eight forms of physical activities – (Yoga asana)- have been observed to benefit diabetic patients. These exercises were practiced daily for 45 minutes, followed by relaxation exercises like Shavasana (Deadman pose) and Makrasana (Crocodile pose).
Yoga helps build immunity. The role of Yoga in disease prevention is now widely understood, leading to the rising popularity of this lifestyle modification program.