An ancient mind-body practice combining movement and stretches with meditation, yoga is used to manage symptoms and side effects and body terrain imbalances common in cancer.

Safety and precautions

Yoga involves movement and balance, and novices are highly recommended to practice under the supervision and guidance of a certified professional, preferably one trained in the needs of cancer patients. 

Yoga includes many different subtypes (see Affordability and access › ), and one among them is likely more suited for people with any specific physical limitations you may have. We advise cancer patients interested in beginning yoga to consult their physicians and find yoga teachers trained in yoga for cancer patients.

Increased breathlessness with physical activity is a concern for people with lung cancer, but a standardized Viniyoga protocol may allow people to participate in yoga without causing breathlessness.

No evidence of an increase in breathlessness among people with non-small cell lung cancer participating in a special 8-week standardized yoga protocol in a small trial

  • No increase in breathlessness among people with non-small cell lung cancer participating in a special 8-week standardized yoga protocol for stage I-IIIa NSCLC survivors in a small uncontrolled triala study in which a therapy is used, but without a comparison group against which to judge outcomes; an uncontrolled trial is considered a weak study design1Fouladbakhsh JM, Davis JE, Yarandi HN. Using a standardized Viniyoga protocol for lung cancer survivors: a pilot study examining effects on breathing ease. Journal of Complementary and Integrative Medicine. 2013 Jun 26;10(1):175-187.

Side effects or adverse events

People practicing yoga can experience injuries. These are among the most common:2YogaRenew Teacher Training. ​5 common yoga injuries and how to avoid them. YogaRenew. February 18, 2020. Viewed May 1, 2022.

  • Wrist strain or injury
  • Lower back pain
  • Shoulder strain
  • Knee pain or discomfort
  • Neck compression

Cancer patients may experience or have increased risk of bone loss, lymphedema, neuropathy, and other conditions as a result of cancer treatments. Some poses may need to be altered to reduce risk of injury. A trained leader, especially one trained in leading yoga among people with cancer, can reduce your risk of injury.

Do not use (contraindications)

If you have an injury, are recovering from recent surgery, or have been advised by your oncologist not to practice yoga due to bone metastases or other conditions, yoga may not be recommended. Follow your doctor’s advice.

Qigong may be a gentler alternative if yoga is not recommended for you.


Keep reading about yoga


Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Last update: August 3, 2023

Last full literature review: January 2022

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

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