Studies on Yoga and Cancer and the Yoga Sutra's

Submitted by Jerry Parker on December 21, 2012

The word Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root “Yujir Yogey”. It means to yoke or to unite or to join or to put together. Philosophically speaking, Yoga talks about the union of the Individual Self (Jivatma) with the Universal Self (Paramatma or God).

Yoga is one of six classical Indian philosophies called Sad Darsanas.


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It has been practiced for centuries in India. Mention of Yoga is made all through the Vedas. These are ancient Indian scriptures which rank among the oldest scriptures in existence.

Around 20 centuries ago an Indian sage named Patanjali laid down the various rules of Yoga in 196 pithy aphorisms called “The Yoga Sutras.” They help classify today’s practice of Yoga. The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali delineate 8 limbs, or regulations of Yoga. They are:

  • Yamas (ethical disciplines)
  • Niyamas (individual observances)
  • Asana (postures)
  • Pranayama (breath control)
  • Pratyahara (withdrawal of senses)
  • Dharana (concentration)
  • Dhyana (meditation), and
  • Samadhi (self-realization, enlightenment).

In the US, the yoga by and large refers to the third and fourth limbs, asana and pranayama. However, traditionally the limbs are viewed as very much interrelated.

The best part is that Yoga has been practiced for thousands of years in order to enhance physical and emotional well-being. Scientists have been doing experimental studies on Yoga for many years now. This includes a number of recent studies carried out on cancer patients and cancer survivors.


This article gives a brief introduction to Yoga and an appraisal of Yoga research in cancer.


A number of studies done on cancer patients and survivors showed humble improvements. These were in regard to sleep quality, mood, stress, cancer-related distress, cancer-related symptoms, and overall quality of life. Research done on other patients and healthy people have revealed valuable effects on psychological and somatic symptoms, not to mention several other facets of physical functioning.


Results from the studies on “Yoga and Cancer” offer first round support for the possibility, practicability and effectiveness of Yoga interventions for cancer patients; even though controlled trials are still lacking. Additional studies are necessary to conclude the dependability of these effects, to spot and recognize their underlying mechanisms.

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