Why We’re Testing Y4C: Yoga for Cancer Patients, Survivors

Yoga for Cancer
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Many cancer patients seek out yoga to provide comfort, relaxation, reduce pain and anxiety.

Yoga, the ancient Indian system, incorporates physical exercise and movement with mental and spiritual practice. In the United States, yoga is one of the most common forms of integrative medicine.

But not all forms of yoga are suitable for cancer patients. That’s why the Hartford Healthcare Cancer Institute has partnered with Tari Prinster, a cancer survivor and founder of yoga4cancer (also known as y4c), to conduct a pilot and feasibility study on this type of yoga for our patients.

What is y4c? It’s a specialized yoga method focusing on the physical needs of cancer patients resulting from both the disease and its treatment. This combination of breath and movement improves well-being by stimulating the immune system, enhancing strength and flexibility and reducing anxiety.

“At first glance,” says Prinster, “the idea of yoga for cancer patients undergoing treatment or in survivorship seems a logical step to manage anxiety, gain strength, increase flexibility and create feelings of well-being. Those should be the goals and ‘job’ of every cancer patient and survivor — along with keeping their immune system strong to avoid a recurrence. Based on evidence and research, all these good things can happen with yoga.”

There’s little doubt that yoga is good for cancer patients. In a 2018 evaluation of 138 studies, the NIH’s Center for Complementary and Integrative Health found most studies revealed yoga improved “patients’ physical and psychological symptoms and quality of life.”

The Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute now wants to assess the feasibility of adding y4c to our comprehensive cancer program. Our goals include:

1)    Training high-quality yoga providers in the y4c method,

2)    Developing an approved protocol that would begin assess changes in activities of daily living and quality of live,

3)    Enrolling cancer patients into the hospital-based y4c program.

Although we support the practice of yoga for cancer patients, there have been concerns about the varying levels of training, certification and expertise of practitioners,. That can make it difficult for patients, families and clinicians to select an appropriate yoga style during and after the patient’s medical treatment.

Many patients and members of the Cancer Institute health care team have also expressed a desire for greater high-quality data on the types of yoga, dose (duration and intensity) and the assessment of clinical benefit through documentation of pain, anxiety, concomitant use of medications and the potential benefits to overall quality of life.

We now have five y4c-trained yoga providers who will participate in our pilot y4c program. Starting in September, y4c will again be offered at our cancer centers:

  • Bone & Joint Institute Yoga Studio on the Hartford Hospital campus.
  • The Hospital of Central Connecticut on the Plainville Campus.
  • MidState Hospital in Meriden.

If you’re interested in learning more about y4c or participating in out pilot and feasibility study at one of our Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute locations, call 860.972.4444 or email therapies.integrative@hhchealth.org.

Dr. Eric R. Secor Jr. is the Associate Medical Director, Integrative Medicine, at Hartford Hospital.

 


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