Survive and Thrive

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While chemotherapy can save your life, the process is brutal and difficult to say the least. Patients report sleep loss, loss of hair, little appetite, and a general sense of dis-ease. But a new study--to be highlighted at the next meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology--finds that doing yoga in addition to chemotherapy improves sleep, reduces dependency on sedative medication, and helps patients make the transition back to a normal life.

When Bloomberg Businessweek picks up on the story, it's real--in a stodgy, establishment-oriented, Western medicine kind of way. The study, performed at the University of Rochester, enrolled 410 early-stage cancer survivors, and found that after four weeks, those who did yoga regularly reported significantly improved sleep, reduced fatigue, and a higher quality of life. Lead researcher Karen Mustian, Ph.D., M.P.H.,an assistant professor in Radiation Oncology at Rochester, crafted a practice focused on breathing exercises, gentle asanas, and restorative postures. The video routine, YOCAS (Yoga for Cancer Survivors), is not yet available for one and all, but Mustian notes that any regular practice of restorative yoga is likely to yield similar results.

Your doctor might not yet be ready to jump on the yoga bandwagon; your insurance probably won't cover it. But why wait for the system to catch up to this breaking news? This is one "alternative" treatment that's perfectly safe to prescribe for yourself (or for friends and family who might be suffering in the wake of cancer treatment). Better rest, peace of mind, and an improved sense of wellness are a great buy at $15 a class. Or find a donation-based studio, and you can reap the benefits for even less.

If you can't manage to get out and about, dig out your VCR and get yourself a copy of the late Esther Myer's excellent video, "Gentle Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors". Take a deep breath, stretch, and remind yourself that though Savasana might be helpful to you now, you're not a corpse yet!