Improve the Symptoms of Myeloproliferative Neoplasm Patients with Online Yoga

Improve the Symptoms of Myeloproliferative Neoplasm Patients with Online Yoga


By John M. de Castro, Ph.D.


Yoga classes specifically created for cancer patients offer more than a traditional support group. Yoga creates a sense of belonging, reduces feelings of stress and improves quality of life.” – Sara Szeglowski


“Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (MPNs) are blood cancers that occur when the body makes too many white or red blood cells, or platelets” (Cancer Support Community). It typically occurs in older adults and is fairly rare (1-2 cases/100,000 per year) and has a very high survival rate. It produces a variety of psychological and physical symptoms including fatigue, anxiety, pain, depression, and sleep disturbance, reduced physical, social, and cognitive functioning resulting. This produces a marked reduced in the patient’s quality of life.


Mindfulness training has been shown through extensive research to be effective in improving physical and psychological health including fatigueanxietydepressionpain, and sleep disturbance, and improves physical, social, and cognitive functioning as well as quality of life in cancer patients. Yoga practice also improves the physical and mental health of cancer patients. The vast majority of the yoga practice, however, requires a trained instructor. It also requires that the participants be available to attend multiple sessions at particular scheduled times that may be difficult for myeloproliferative neoplasm patients to attend and may or may not be compatible with their schedules and at locations that may not be convenient.


As an alternative, online yoga trainings have been developed. These have tremendous advantages in decreasing costs, making training schedules much more flexible, and eliminating the need to go repeatedly to specific locations. But the question arises as to the effectiveness of these online programs in relieving the psychological and physical symptoms of myeloproliferative neoplasm patients and improving their quality of life.


In today’s Research News article “Online yoga in myeloproliferative neoplasm patients: results of a randomized pilot trial to inform future research.” (See summary below or view the full text of the study at:, Huberty and colleagues recruited adult myeloproliferative neoplasm patients and randomly assigned them to either receive online yoga training or to a wait-list control condition. Yoga training occurred via streamed videos for a total of 60 minutes training per week for 12 weeks. The individual training videos increased in duration from 5 minutes to 30 minutes over the 12 weeks. The participants were measured for adverse events and yoga participation by self-report and by clicking on the video links and over the training period. Before and after training they were measured for total symptoms, fatigue, pain intensity, anxiety, depression, sleep disturbance, sexual function, and quality of life. In, addition, blood was drawn and assayed for inflammatory cytokines.


They found that 79% of the patients in the yoga group completed participation averaging 42 minutes per week and there were no adverse events reported. Self-reports of yoga participation were over-reported by on average 10 minutes as assessed by actual clicks on the yoga video links. They found that in comparison to baseline and the wait-list group, the yoga group reported a moderate decrease in depression and small decreases in anxiety, pain intensity, sleep disturbance, and in TNF-α blood levels.


This was a pilot feasibility study and did not have a sufficient number of participants to detect small effects. It also lacked an active control, such as aerobic exercise. Nevertheless, the trial suggests that teaching yoga online is feasible and can successfully improve the psychological health of myeloproliferative neoplasm patients and reduce inflammation. This is potentially important as yoga treatment can be successfully employed remotely, inexpensively, and conveniently and can reduce the suffering of myeloproliferative neoplasm patients. A large randomized clinical trial with an active control condition is justified by these encouraging results.


So, improve the symptoms of myeloproliferative neoplasm patients with online yoga.


Some people with cancer say it helps calm their mind so that they can cope better with their cancer and its treatment. Others say it helps to reduce symptoms and side effects such as pain, tiredness, sleep problems and depression.” – Cancer Research UK


CMCS – Center for Mindfulness and Contemplative Studies


This and other Contemplative Studies posts are also available on Google+ and on Twitter @MindfulResearch


Study Summary


Huberty, J., Eckert, R., Dueck, A., Kosiorek, H., Larkey, L., Gowin, K., & Mesa, R. (2019). Online yoga in myeloproliferative neoplasm patients: results of a randomized pilot trial to inform future research. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 19(1), 121. doi:10.1186/s12906-019-2530-8




Myeloproliferative neoplasm (MPN) patients suffer from significant symptoms, inflammation and reduced quality of life. Yoga improves these outcomes in other cancers, but this hasn’t been demonstrated in MPNs. The purpose of this study was to: (1) explore the limited efficacy (does the program show promise of success) of a 12-week online yoga intervention among MPN patients on symptom burden and quality of life and (2) determine feasibility (practicality: to what extent a measure can be carried out) of remotely collecting inflammatory biomarkers.


Patients were recruited nationally and randomized to online yoga (60 min/week of yoga) or wait-list control (asked to maintain normal activity). Weekly yoga minutes were collected with Clicky (online web analytics tool) and self-report. Those in online yoga completed a blood draw at baseline and week 12 to assess inflammation (interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor-alpha [TNF-α]). All participants completed questionnaires assessing depression, anxiety, fatigue, pain, sleep disturbance, sexual function, total symptom burden, global health, and quality of life at baseline, week seven, 12, and 16. Change from baseline at each time point was computed by group and effect sizes were calculated. Pre-post intervention change in inflammation for the yoga group was compared by t-test.


Sixty-two MPN patients enrolled and 48 completed the intervention (online yoga = 27; control group = 21). Yoga participation averaged 40.8 min/week via Clicky and 56.1 min/week via self-report. Small/moderate effect sizes were generated from the yoga intervention for sleep disturbance (d = − 0.26 to − 0.61), pain intensity (d = − 0.34 to − 0.51), anxiety (d = − 0.27 to − 0.37), and depression (d = − 0.53 to − 0.78). A total of 92.6 and 70.4% of online yoga participants completed the blood draw at baseline and week 12, respectively, and there was a decrease in TNF-α from baseline to week 12 (− 1.3 ± 1.5 pg/ml).


Online yoga demonstrated small effects on sleep, pain, and anxiety as well as a moderate effect on depression. Remote blood draw procedures are feasible and the effect size of the intervention on TNF-α was large. Future fully powered randomized controlled trials are needed to test for efficacy.


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