May 25, 2010

health wednesday

The older I get, the more curious I get about eastern modalities with respect to health.  I've especially become interested in their relation to cancer for obvious reasons.  But I'm also a western empiricist so any therapy that works should well,  Any therapy, east or west, conventional or alternative, etc should stand up to the rigours of empirical testing.  I separate them into what works and what doesn't.  I don't care as much about the explanation as the pragmatic effect.  Whether it's energy or molecular switches doesn't matter.  Yoga is one of those modalities that has held up pretty well to what little western scrutiny that has been applied and it's been something I've been trying to get my brother to try.

This study to be presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology looked at the effect of yoga on sleep quality.  I hate to link to a glorified press release and not the actual study, but the study is intriguing in its approach.  They took breast cancer survivors and had them perform a specific yoga routine twice a week for a little more than an hour during each session.  Researchers claimed that the yoga group had improved sleep quality, reduced fatigue, and they reduced the amount of sleep medications required. 

I have only one big question.  Is there something specific about yoga and any benefits it may confer?  In other words, how would the quality of sleep compare to different types of exercise performed twice a week such as walking, swimming, weight training, etc.  Is it exercise in general or is there something unique about the rhythmic breathing involved?  My hunch is that while just about any exercise in general is good, rhythmic deep breathing may have effects on its own based on some other data.  MDACC apparently has received a grant to begin to investigate the meditative breathing and the effects on stress.  We'll have to see if maybe my brother could tap into that study.  WebMD also has an article covering the study.

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