Cancer patients’ experiences with and perceived outcomes of yoga: results from focus groups



Yoga is a “mind–body” exercise, a combination of physical poses with breathing and meditation, and may have beneficial effects on physical and psychosocial symptoms. We aimed to explore cancer patients’ motives for practicing yoga, experiences of practicing yoga, and perceived physical and psychosocial outcomes.


Participants (n = 45) following yoga classes for cancer patients were asked to participate in focus group interviews, of whom 29 participated. The focus groups (n = 5) were audio taped with prior consent and transcribed verbatim. Data were analyzed by two coders and independently coded into key issues and themes.


Mean age of the participants was 53.8 (SD 10.8) years, of whom 25 were women, and 18 were diagnosed with breast cancer. Motives for participation in yoga were relaxation, the will to be physically active, the wish to pay more attention to one’s body, coping with psychosocial symptoms, contributing to their cancer rehabilitation process, and combing physical and mental processes. Main physical and psychosocial experiences of yoga mentioned by patients were regaining body awareness, raising attention to the inner self, learning how to relax, enjoyment, and finding recognition and understanding. Increased physical fitness and function, mental strength and resilience, increased coping, being more relaxed, and happiness were frequently mentioned experiences of patients.


Patients with different types of cancer perceived several benefits on physical and psychosocial outcomes by practicing yoga. Therefore, yoga can be a valuable form of supportive care for cancer patients.

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We thank Dr. Jack Franklin for translating the Dutch quotes to English, Josette van Leeuwen from Stichting SARA Nederland for facilitating the focus groups and Susanne Mulder and Janneke Rijnart for their contribution in the data collection. The contributions of CF van Uden-Kraan and LM Buffart were supported by Alpe d’HuZes/KWF Fund, provided by the Dutch Cancer Society. The contribution of LM Buffart was further supported by a fellowship granted by the EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research.

Conflicts of interest

None of the authors have commercial or other associations that might pose a conflict of interest in connection with the manuscript.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to L. M. Buffart.

Additional information

The results of this paper were presented at the MASCC/ISOO 2012 International Symposium on Supportive Care in Cancer in New York City on June 28–30, 2012.

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van Uden-Kraan, C.F., Chinapaw, M.J.M., Drossaert, C.H.C. et al. Cancer patients’ experiences with and perceived outcomes of yoga: results from focus groups. Support Care Cancer 21, 1861–1870 (2013).

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  • Yoga
  • Qualitative research
  • Quality of life
  • Neoplasms
  • Rehabilitation