Oncology Research

YOGA AS PSYCHOLOGY: The Bali Method and Breast Cancer Patients

Yoga is an ancient Indian discipline in which meditation is used to promote the well-being of both body and spirit. And it can even help women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer enjoy a better quality of life while suffering fewer symptoms of depression.

These are the findings of a study presented to the Congrès de l’Association francophone pour le savoir (ACFAS) by a doctoral student in psychology at l’Université du Québec à Montréal.

Dominique Lanctôt, didn’t come across her subject by chance.  She decided to explore the potential benefits of the Bali Method yoga after having survived breast cancer 10 years ago, a disease that affects 6000 Québecois women a year, 1400 of them fatally.

“Living with cancer is very difficult and chemotherapy very painful. Yoga worked for me and I wanted to scientifically demonstrate its benefits for breast cancer sufferers,” explains the study’s originator.  It’s the first study of its kind on the subject.

To carry out her research, Lanctôt recruited 101 women at random who were undergoing chemotherapy in Montreal hospitals and who were diagnosed with stage 1 to 3 cancer, a measure of the disease’s aggressivity.

A group of 58 participants followed an 8-week course of yoga, one and a half hours per week, adapted to their physical condition. They were also able to continue practicing yoga at home with the aid of a DVD.

The program focused on the Bali Method, named after the 86-year old yoga master who over the years trained more than 300 instructors in Quebec and abroad. Bali Method yoga aims to achieve a union between mind, body and spirit through meditation, breathing and body posture.

43 other participants made up the control group. Although they suffered from breast cancer similar to the others, they did not practice yoga while undergoing chemotherapy.

The quality of life and psychological state of the 101 participants were evaluated before and after the yoga trial by means of a questionnaire, a method widely accepted in the world of scientific research.

Lanctôt discovered that women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer who practiced yoga saw their symptoms of depression significantly reduced versus women who did not.


A good complement to treatment

What’s more, total life quality scores as well as the emotional (confidence, self-esteem) and cognitive (memory, concentration) scores were improved compared with the control group.

“The study shows that Bali method yoga is a technique that can complement traditional cancer treatment,” says Lanctôt.

“It gives women another tool to help them get through the chemo. It helps them feel less anxious and can result in fewer hospital visits,” she adds.

Yoga could even become a valuable resource for use in the hospital environment, the researcher believes. And she’s not the only one to think so, with some oncologists sharing the same opinion. A pilot project on the benefits of yoga is currently underway at the Centre hospitalier de l’Université de Montréal (CHUM).

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