Cancer patients receiving chemotherapy experience fatigue, sleep disturbances, anxiety, stress, and depression. Drugs to treat these symptoms can be expensive, ineffective, and have undesirable side-effects. A 2008 study approved by the University of California San Francisco tested the feasibility of the yogic breathing practices of pranayama and measured the effects on the quality of life (QOL) in patients. The study stated that yoga is inexpensive and has no side effects.
The study tracked the patients over one year beginning October 2008. Sixteen patients completed all the study measures. Participants were tracked over two consecutive chemotherapy cycles and the control group was given yoga training in just the second cycle. A trained yoga instructor gave a 60-minute class every week and then the participants had a home practice–twice a day for a total of 20-30 minutes daily.
Four specific techniques were taught: breath observation, ujjayi (victorious breath), kapalbhati (skull shining breath), and nadi shodhana (alternate nostril breath).
This first study of a pure pranayama intervention in a population of patients with cancer successfully demonstrated that yoga breathing is feasible and can be safely recommended for patients with cancer receiving chemotherapy. Any increase in the yoga breathing practice was correlated with improvements in both cancer chemotherapy associated symptoms and QOL. Pranayama may be helpful for improving sleep disturbance, anxiety, and mental QOL among patients undergoing chemotherapy. Definitive conclusions on efficacy await further study.
Source: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3353818/ Yoga Breathing for Cancer Chemotherapy–Associated Symptoms and Quality of Life: Results of a Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial