Research Trial: The Yoga Mat, Where East Meets West

The Yoga Mat, Where East Meets West: Evaluating a Structured Yoga Practice on Common Side Effects of Chemotherapy/Biotherapy in Cancer Patients

  • Patricia Johnson, BS, RN, OCN, CBCN – Oncology Care Coordinator, Breast Care Navigator; University of Vermont Health Network CVPH
  • Carlyn Haag, MS, RN-BC, CCRN-K
  • Mary Nolan, RN, OCN UVMHN- Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital, Plattsburgh, NY

As published in the Journal of Oncology Navigation & Survivorship. (September 2019 Vol 10, N0 9). Read full results.

Background: Eight of the most commonly experienced physiological and psychosocial side effects of cancer chemotherapy/biotherapy are pain, tiredness, drowsiness, nausea, lack of appetite, shortness of breath, depression, and anxiety. Yoga is a complementary health approach recognized by the National Institutes of Health.

Objectives: To evaluate the effects of a structured yoga program on specific physiological and psycho­social side effects in patients undergoing active treatment with chemotherapy/biotherapy.

Methods: This quantitative, non-experimental pilot study with anecdotal commentary utilized descriptive statistics. Participants (N = 8) self-rated these side effects using a validated instrument at 10 points during an 8-week structured yoga intervention. Effect size and means were calculated at select data points: baseline, week 8, and 1 month after study completion.

Results: Reported ratings demonstrated improvement in many symptoms at week 8, and an increase in some of these symptoms’ recurrence 1 month after study completion. Interestingly, participants’ self-report of overall well-being demonstrated a positive improvement. Effect size was calculated: Cohen’s d of 0.56 measured from baseline to week 8 yielded a medium effect size, and Cohen’s d of 0.36 measured from week 8 to post study completion yielded a small effect size.

Conclusions: Participants in a structured yoga program reported a decrease in many of the negative side effects of chemotherapy/biotherapy and improvement in feeling of overall well-being. Limitations of this study included variability of cancer diagnoses, sample size, and consistency of class attendance. Yoga can be one of many supports offered by the oncology nurse navigator.

Please review the full results.

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