Yoga may help childhood cancer patients and their parents cope with the stress of a cancer diagnosis and treatment, according to a new study.
Yoga was beneficial for older children, ages 13 to 18, but not younger ones, ages 7 to 12.
Adolescents and their parents experienced a decrease in anxiety and increase in sense of well-being following the yoga sessions, the researchers say.
"Yoga is emerging as an effective complementary therapy in adult oncology," the researchers wrote in the September/October issue of the Journal of Pediatric Oncology Nursing, "promising benefits for decreasing symptom distress including fatigue , insomnia, mood, and stress resulting in improved quality of life ."
The study focused on childhood cancer patients and their families. Parents may experience stress and anxiety because of the uncertainty of the disease, and the suffering of their children.
"Teens reported that that they felt relaxed and calmer, and that [yoga] was fun," the researchers said in a statement. Parents said the yoga sessions were relaxing, allowed them to stretch their muscles and strengthen their bodies, and relieved stress. They felt better about themselves, and those who participated in the sessions with their children said it helped them bond with their children.
Yoga lowers heart rate and blood pressure, and improves circulation and oxygenation. It also improves muscle tone, lung function, coordination and flexibility, according to the researchers.
Previous research has suggested yoga's focus on deep breathing and breathing control may turn down the body's "fight or flight" response, or the body's reaction to stress.
More studies are needed to determine whether yoga also has an effect on fatigue, sleep disturbance, pain and nausea, the researchers said.
The study was conducted by researchers at the Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.