Impact and Outcomes of an Iyengar Yoga Program in a Cancer Centre

Meghan D Duncan


Introduction. Individuals have increasingly sought complementary therapies to enhance health and well-being during cancer, although little evidence of their impact is available.

Objectives: 1) How does an Iyengar yoga program impact self-identified worst symptom amongst a group of participants? 2) Do quality of life, spiritual well-being, and mood disturbance change over the Iyengar yoga program and at six weeks after the program? 3) From the participants’ perspectives, how does the Iyengar yoga program complement conventional cancer treatment?

Design: Pre-post, instrumental collective case study mixed methods design.

Setting: Private Iyengar Yoga studio.

Participants: A volunteer sample of twenty-four people (23 female; 1 male; 88% Caucasian; mean age=49) who were currently on treatment, or had been treated for cancer within the previous six months. 

Intervention: Ten, 90-minute, weekly Iyengar yoga classes.

Main Outcome Measures: Most-bothersome symptom (MYMOP2), Quality of life and Spiritual well-being (FACIT-Sp), Mood disturbance (POMS); participant perspectives (qualitative interviews).

Results: Statistically significant improvements were reported in most-bothersome symptom (t(23)=5.242; p<0.0001), quality of life (F(2,46)=14.5; p<0.0001), spiritual well-being (F(2,46)=14.4; p<0.0001), and mood disturbance (F(2,46)=10.8; p<0.0001) during the program. At the follow-up, quality of life (t(21)=-3.7; p=0.001) and mood disturbance (t(21)=2.4; p=0.025) significantly improved over time. Categorical aggregation of the interview data showed participants felt the program provided them with various benefits not included on the questionnaires.

Conclusion: Over the course of the Iyengar Yoga for Cancer program participants reported an improvement in overall well-being. The program was also found to present participants with a holistic approach to care and to provide tools to effectively manage the demands of living with cancer and its treatment.


Key Words: Iyengar yoga, cancer, complementary and alternative medicine, integrative oncology, mixed methodology

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ISSN: 1198-0052 (Print) ISSN: 1718-7729 (Online)