Yoga for Cancer

We're always looking for more data to add to our index, so if you know of a yoga research study that you don't see here, pass it along to us. Send relevant scholarly articles to Yoga Alliance® supports the continued research on yoga’s benefits, and we will continue to update the page with more research on more health topics. 

Last updated: July 19, 2017


Yoga Alliance recommends that any individuals with health concerns consult with a qualified health care practitioner to discuss whether yoga is right for them, but we are aware that yoga can be used in the medical treatment context by appropriately qualified and licensed healthcare practitioners. Yoga Alliance credentials do not serve as qualifications for the diagnosis or treatment of health conditions.

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“Our findings support the notion that yoga for pediatric cancer patients during active treatment is feasible and potentially helpful in improving both patients' and parents' well-being.”
–Orsey et al (2017), Rehabilitation Oncology


“Feasibility of YP [yoga practice] immediately after breast cancer diagnosis was good. Improvement in emotional well-being, anxiety, depression, and levels of confusion was found in both groups.”
–Pruthi et al (2017), Global Advances in Health and Medicine



“Yoga is valuable in improving negative moods in patients with breast cancer. We also concluded five key mechanisms of yoga therapy in improving negative moods.”
–Zuo et al (2016), International Journal of Nursing Sciences



“In general, the present qualitative findings suggest yoga was an important component of survivorship aiding cancer survivors in their cancer journey and provided respite during active treatment.”
–Mackenzie et al (2016), Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine



“Lagged analyses of length of home yoga practice (controlling for individual mean practice time and outcome levels on the lagged days) showed that on the day after a day during which women [with metastatic breast cancer] practiced more, they experienced significantly lower levels of pain and fatigue, and higher levels of invigoration, acceptance, and relaxation.”


– Carson et al (2015), Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 


“This study concludes that Yoga along with standard antiemetic medication should be a part of the management plan for the cancer patients receiving highly emetogenic chemotherapy.”


– Jakhar et al (2015), Annals of Oncology 


“Adolescents and parents experienced significant decreases in anxiety scores [after the single yoga session], and all cohorts gave positive feedback about the experience. The authors conclude that yoga is a feasible intervention for this population and is beneficial to adolescents and parents.”


– Thygeson et al (2010), Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing 


“The results suggest that [cancer] survivors who participated in both regular exercise and yoga had higher scores in physical functioning, fewer limitations with physical and emotional health, less pain, and more vitality than survivors who reported participating in regular exercise only.”


– Lowe et al (2012), Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine 


“Moderate effect sizes with respect to yoga and neurotoxicity and quality of life offer promise for all 3 interventions in managing chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy.”


– Clark et al (2012), Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine 


“In the largest trial to date, MBCR [mindfulness-based cancer recovery. . . MBCR focused on training in mindfulness meditation and gentle yoga] was superior for improving stress levels, quality of life, and social support for distressed survivors of breast cancer.”


– Carlson et al (2013), Journal of Clinical Oncology 


“Despite limited adherence, this intent-to-treat analysis suggests that yoga is associated with beneficial effects on social functioning among a medically diverse sample of breast cancer survivors. Among patients not receiving chemotherapy, yoga appears to enhance emotional well-being and mood and may serve to buffer deterioration in both overall and specific domains of QOL.”


– Moadel et al (2007), Journal of Clinical Oncology 


“YG [yoga] improved QOL [quality of life] and physiological changes associated with XRT [radiotherapy] beyond the benefits of simple ST [stretching] exercises, and these benefits appear to have long-term durability.”


– Chandwani et al (2014), Journal of Clinical Oncology 


“Yoga, specifically the YOCAS [Yoga for Cancer Survivors] program, is a useful treatment for improving sleep quality and reducing sleep medication use among cancer survivors.”


– Mustian et al (2013), Journal of Clinical Oncology 


“MBSR [Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction] program enrollment was associated with enhanced quality of life and decreased stress symptoms in breast and prostate cancer patients, and resulted in possibly beneficial changes in hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis functioning.”


– Carlson et al (2004), Psychoneuroendocrinology 


“A 12-week restorative Iyengar yoga intervention reduced inflammation-related gene expression in breast cancer survivors with persistent fatigue. These findings suggest that a targeted yoga program may have beneficial effects on inflammatory activity in this patient population, with potential relevance for behavioral and physical health.”


– Bower et al (2014), Psychoneuroendocrinology 


“Practicing post-operative exercises does improve arm and shoulder morbidity following breast cancer surgery. The addition of a self-practice general yoga program was well received and appeared to improve QoL [quality of life] at 6 months.”
– Harder et al (2015), European Journal of Integrative Medicine 



“Individualized yoga is feasible for inpatient children receiving intensive chemotherapy. Future work will include development and conduct of a randomized trial for fatigue amelioration.”
– Diorio et al (2015), BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine 



“In conclusion, for the first time we are showing that an acute Yogic Breathing practice induces changes in levels of salivary proteins of significance to immune response and cancer.”
– Balasubramanian et al (2015), Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine



“Yoga combined with meditation can be considered a safe and effective complementary intervention for menopausal symptoms in breast cancer survivors. The effects seem to persist for at least 3 months.”
Cramer et al (2015), Cancer



“The results of this feasibility study suggest that adult male and female patients can participate in yoga intervention to improve symptoms related to cancer and its conventional treatment.”
– McCall et al (2015), Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine



“According to the data from this study, aerobic exercise training and yoga improved the functional capacity and [quality of life] of breast cancer patients. Aerobic exercise programs can be supported by body mind techniques, such as yoga, in the rehabilitation of cancer patients for improving functional recovery and psychosocial wellness.“
– Yagli et al (2015), Integrative Cancer Therapies



“The women's perceptions of the programme, [a 10-week course of Hatha yoga for gynaecological cancer patients,] were generally positive; many found benefits. [Patients] noted the breadth and applicability of the techniques in their day-to-day lives.”
– Archer et al (2014), Complementary Therapies in Medicine



“Mind-body techniques such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, and qigong have been found to lower distress and lead to improvements in different aspects of quality of life. It is essential that the standard of care in oncology include distress screening and the delivery of different techniques to help patients manage the psychosocial challenges of diagnosis and treatment of cancer.”
Chaoul et al (2014), Current Oncology



“…[study participants, post-treatment cancer survivors,] who practiced yoga more frequently reported significantly fewer cognitive problems at 3-month follow-up than those who practiced less frequently. These findings suggest that yoga can effectively reduce breast cancer survivors' cognitive complaints...”
Derry et al (2014), Psycho-Oncology



“Six women with [breast cancer-related lymphedema] participated in modified Hatha yoga. Arm volume significantly decreased from baseline. Yoga may be beneficial in the management of lymphedema.“
– Fisher et al (2014), Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies



“The outcomes of this small pilot trial provide preliminary evidence that an 8-week Satyananda Yoga® intervention, based on guidelines for exercise and lymphatic drainage, did not exacerbate [breast cancer-related] lymphoedema measured by arm volume and extra-cellular fluid and improved tissue induration of the affected upper arm.”
– Loudon et al (2014), BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine



"Secondary arm lymphedema continues to affect at least 20% of women after treatment for breast cancer requiring lifelong professional treatment and self-management. The holistic practice of yoga may offer benefits as an adjunct self-management option.”
– Loudon et al (2014), BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine



“From a practical standpoint, general education on [cancer-related fatigue] is something that most care providers can readily offer patients as part of routine care. Other interventions that appear promising but are as yet lacking convincing evidence include mindfulness-based stress reduction, yoga, and acupuncture. Reiki, Qigong, hypnosis, and music therapy may be worthy of further investigation.”
– Pachman et al (2014), The Cancer Journal



“This 12-week community-based yoga intervention was feasible and provides preliminary evidence for the benefits of yoga on [health-related quality of life], physical fitness and [physical activity levels] in pediatric cancer out-patients.”
– Wurz et al (2014), Pediatric Blood & Cancer



“Patients with different types of cancer perceived several benefits on physical and psychosocial outcomes by practicing yoga. Therefore, yoga can be a valuable form of supportive care for cancer patients.”
Uden-Kraan et al (2013), Supportive Care in Cancer



“…associations between affect, mindfulness, and patient-reported mental health outcomes, including mood disturbance, stress symptoms, and health-related quality of life (HRQL), were examined in an existing seven-week yoga program for cancer survivors. Decreases in mood disturbance and stress symptoms and improvements in HRQL were observed upon program completion. Results…suggest a reciprocal relationship in which higher HRQL is associated with yoga practice maintenance.”
– Mackenzie et al (2013), Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine



“Overall, results indicated that breast cancer patients and [health care providers] were supportive and eager for the implementation of a yoga therapy program.“
– Slocum-Gori et al (2013), Integrative Cancer Therapies



“The present study was aimed at comparing the apoptotic index (AI) and DNA damage of advanced yoga practitioners with those of breast cancer patients. …When one adopts a yogic way of life with minimal or no abuse to the body and mind, it tends toward a healthy body, which reflects itself in the cellular parameters of [apoptotic index] and DNA damage.“
– Ram et al (2013), International Journal of Yoga



“We sought to study the impact of yoga therapy on anxiety, depression and physical health in breast cancer patients. . . . Our data indicates an improvement in physical function in addition to a consistent amelioration in anxiety, depression and pain symptoms after a yoga intervention.”
– Sudarshan et al (2013), Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice



“Yoga may be feasible and clinically useful for breast cancer survivors with poor QOL [Quality of Life]. Significant improvement was found in [physical, emotional, functional, and breast cancer specific well being.]”
– Levine et al (2012), Complimentary Therapies in Clinical Practice



“Yoga is a feasible physical activity option for prostate cancer survivors. The program had a promising uptake rate, high program adherence rate, …[and] significant improvements with regard to stress, fatigue, and mood…were reported by all participants.“
– Zahavich et al (2013), Integrative Cancer Therapies



“Cancer-related fatigue affects up to 33% of breast cancer survivors. A targeted yoga intervention led to significant improvements in fatigue and vigor among breast cancer survivors with persistent fatigue symptoms.”
– Bower et al (2012), Cancer



“Yoga breathing was a feasible intervention among patients with cancer receiving chemotherapy. Pranayama may improve sleep disturbance, anxiety, and mental quality of life.”
– Dhruva et al (2012), The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine



“Preliminary data suggest that yoga may reduce pain and improve balance and flexibility in [postmenopausal breast cancer survivors] with [aromatase inhibitors-associated arthralgia]. Participants experienced significant improvement in balance…and flexibility [with] no adverse events nor development or worsening of lymphedema“
– Galentino et al (2012), Integrative Cancer Therapies



“Results of this qualitative analysis indicate that interventions to support [breast cancer survivors] with [aromatase inhibitor-associated arthralgia] are warranted. Yoga appears to positively impact these side effects of hormonal therapies.“
– Galantino et al (2012), Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing



“This case series suggests that yoga may impact various aspects of cognition during and after chemotherapy administration as noted through quantitative measures. Women describe yoga as improving various domains of [quality of life] through the treatment trajectory.“
– Galantino et al (2012), Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing



“Feasibility of [yoga practice] immediately after breast cancer diagnosis was good. [Yoga] was rated as “very effective” [in] providing relaxation, stress relief, and reduced muscle tension/general feeling of wellness.”
– Pruthi et al (2012), Global Advances in Health and Medicine



“[These results] support the feasibility and acceptability of a tailored Iyengar Yoga intervention for breast cancer survivors with persistent fatigue. There was a significant improvement in fatigue scores from pre- to post-intervention that was maintained at the 3-month post-intervention followup.”
– Bower et al (2011), Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine



“The results indicate that relaxation training according to Yoga in Daily Life® system could be useful clinical physiotherapy intervention for breast cancer patients experiencing psychological distress.“
– Kovacic et al (2011), Integrative Cancer Therapies



“In summary, our findings show potential benefits of yoga for people with cancer in improvements of psychological health.”
– Lin et al (2011), Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine



“[This] study of yoga in [overweight and obese] breast cancer survivors, and its efficacy on fatigue, quality of life (QOL), and weight change. Yoga may help decrease waist circumference and improve quality of life; future studies are needed to confirm these results.”
– Littman et al (2011), Supportive Care in Cancer



“It can be concluded that yoga is valuable in helping to achieve relaxation and diminish stress, helps [breast] cancer patients perform daily and routine activities, and increases the quality of life in cancer patients.”
– Ülger et al (2010), Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice



“Yoga classes were taught [to female breast cancer patients] biweekly during the 6 weeks of radiotherapy. Our results indicated that the yoga program was associated with statistically and clinically significant improvements in aspects of [quality of life].”
– Chandwani et al (2010), Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology



“This pilot study provides promising support for the beneficial effects of a comprehensive yoga program for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms in early-stage breast cancer survivors.”
– Carson et al (2009), Supportive Care in Cancer



“This study demonstrates that a RY [restorative yoga] intervention is feasible for women with breast cancer. Participants enjoyed the RY intervention, and these data suggest a variety of emotional benefits of RY…[and that] this type of intervention should be considered for women undergoing multimodality treatment for breast cancer”
–Danhauer et al (2009), Psycho-Oncology



“…these pilot data suggest potential benefit of [restorative yoga] on emotional outcomes and fatigue in [female breast] cancer patients. This study demonstrates that a RY intervention is feasible for women with breast cancer.”
Danhauer et al (2009), Psycho-Oncology



“The results suggest beneficial effects with yoga intervention in managing cancer- and treatment-related symptoms in breast cancer patients. The results indicate that yoga intervention was helpful in reducing these symptoms and that reduction in these could have reduced physical and psychological distress and improved activity.“
–  Hosakote et al (2009), International Journal of Yoga



“The present study examined the effects of a 6-week Yoga Nidra meditation programme on perceived stress in multiple sclerosis and cancer patients. Overall stress was significantly reduced over the course of the programme.”
– Pritchard et al (2009), Stress & Health



“Yoga might have a role in managing self-reported psychological distress and modulating circadian patterns of stress hormones in early breast cancer patients undergoing adjuvant radiotherapy.“
– Raghavendra et al (2009), Integrative Cancer Therapies



“The results suggest possible benefits for yoga in reducing postoperative distress and preventing immune suppression following surgery [for breast cancer patients.] The results suggest a significant decrease in psychological morbidity such as anxiety state and trait, depression, treatment-related symptoms and improvement in the quality of life in the yoga group as compared to the controls following surgery.“
– Rao et al (2008), International Journal of Yoga



“The results suggest possible benefits of yoga in reducing postoperative complications in breast cancer patients. The results suggest a significant decrease in the duration of hospital stay, days of drain retention, and days for suture removal. There was also a significant decrease in plasma [tumor necrosis factor] alpha levels following surgery in the yoga group.”“
– Rao et al (2008), International Journal of Yoga



“An integrated approach of yoga intervention modulates the stress and DNA damage levels in breast cancer patients during radiotherapy.”
– Banerjee et al (2007), Integrative Cancer Therapies



“In conclusion, the results suggest a possible use for stress reduction interventions such as yoga in complementing conventional antiemetics to manage chemotherapy-related nausea and emesis. Following yoga, there was a significant decrease in [frequency and intensity of] post-chemotherapy-induced nausea …[and] anticipatory nausea.”
Raghavendra et al (2007), European Journal of Cancer Care



“Nine studies conducted with cancer patients and survivors yielded modest improvements in sleep quality, mood, stress, cancer-related distress, cancer-related symptoms, and overall quality of life.”
– Bower et al (2005), Cancer Control Journal



“These initial findings suggest that yoga has significant potential and should be further explored as a beneficial physical activity option for cancer survivors.”
– Culos-Reed et al (2005), Psycho-Oncology 



“Some [Kundalini Yoga (KY) meditation techniques are beneficial] for treating psychiatric disorders and…cancers. In addition to [obsessive-compulsive disorder] symptoms, other symptoms, including anxiety and depression, were also significantly reduced [from KY].“
– Shannahoff-Khalsa (2005), Integrative Cancer Therapies



“Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction has potential as a clinically valuable self-administered intervention for cancer patients.”
– Smith et al (2005), Journal of Advanced Nursing



“The participation rates [of cancer patients with lymphoma] suggested that a [Tibetan yoga] program is feasible for patients with cancer and that such a program significantly improves sleep-related outcomes [such as sleep quality, sleep duration and use of sleep medication].”
– Cohen et al (2004), Cancer


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