Background: The benefits of yoga for various populations have been summarized in quantitative systematic reviews. Qualitative research exploring the experiences of women participating in yoga across the cancer spectrum (i.e., from diagnosis onwards) is growing, warranting systematic synthesis and integration of such evidence to facilitate knowledge transfer. This study aimed to systematically review and synthesize qualitative findings to understand how women with cancer perceive yoga affecting their quality of life (QoL).
Methods: Using meta-study methodology, six electronic databases were searched using a sensitive search strategy. Two reviewers independently screened titles/abstracts and full-texts to determine eligibility. Data from eligible studies were extracted, and results, methods, and theoretical approach(es) were analyzed.
Results: The search yielded 6,403 results after de-duplication; 19 articles met eligibility criteria. Themes reveal that yoga can serve to improve overall QoL after cancer diagnosis by promoting physical (e.g., managing physical symptoms), psychological (e.g., evoking positive self-perceptions), social (e.g., experiencing a community of similar others), emotional (e.g., learning to regulate/manage emotional responses), and cognitive (e.g., engaging in mindful practices for focus/attention) wellbeing. However, conclusions about the influence of yoga are limited because findings are derived primarily by interviewing women with breast cancer who participated in structured yoga interventions. Furthermore, there is a lack of theoretical integration and refinement in reviewed articles.
Conclusions: This meta-synthesis corroborates conclusions from quantitative reviews and illustrates that yoga can improve QoL in women with cancer. More research is needed to understand the experiences of women with non-breast cancers and the mechanisms underlying improved QoL.