"We knew that some data found yoga helped reduce hot flashes among healthy women but no one had studied the effects among cancer survivors," Duke University's Laura Porter, PhD, says in a news release.
Breast cancer survivors aren't good candidates for hormone replacement therapy. And some breast cancer treatments, such as tamoxifen, "tend to induce or exacerbate menopausal symptoms," write Porter and colleagues at Duke and Oregon Health & Science University.
The yoga study included 37 women who had completed treatment for early-stage breast cancer. The researchers split the women into two groups.
One group of women took a two-hour yoga class for eight weeks. They also practiced yoga at home for about 30 minutes per day. For comparison, the other group of women went on a waiting list for the yoga class.
Their yoga program, called Yoga of Awareness, addresses hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.
"Yoga of Awareness is based on traditional yoga techniques that go beyond the teaching of specific postures to incorporate practices aimed at reducing stress and creating a heightened sense of awareness and acceptance about one's physical and mental state," Porter notes in the news release.
All of the women reported their daily hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms at the study's start and end.
Those before-and-after comparisons show that the yoga group had a greater improvement in menopausal symptoms -- including hot flash frequency and severity -- and a bigger drop in fatigue, joint pain, poor sleep, and distress about their symptoms than the women on the yoga waiting list.
Three months later, the yoga group still fared better, in terms of hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, according to follow-up data.
The findings were presented on March 8 in Los Angeles at the International Association of Yoga Therapists' Symposium for Yoga Therapy and Research.
The researchers plan further studies and to teach their yoga program to yoga instructors nationwide.
Meanwhile, Porter states that while Yoga of Awareness "is not what you'd find at your local fitness center," experienced yoga instructors could teach some of the program's principles.