Yoga is combined with nutrition education to help young cancer patients manage their disease today and lay the foundation for a healthy future, researchers at St Jude Children's Research Hospital, US said.

"We're focusing on all of the benefits of yoga, which include balance, coordination, a decrease in pain and improving quality of life," said Jessica Sparrow of St Jude Rehabilitation Services.

An occupational therapist trained in providing yoga for children, Sparrow added that having this special combination of yoga and nutrition as a service provided for patients is a true complement to treatment.

"Our ultimate goal is that they take this practice into their everyday lives - like breathing exercises to help with anxiety and pain," Sparrow said.

Sparrow worked with Danielle Doria, also of Rehabilitation Services, and Karen Smith of department of
Clinical Nutrition to create the programme's outline.

After each yoga session, patients get a lesson on healthy eating, which often includes a hands-on demonstration from a chef."

We focus on foods that bring patients out of their comfort zone but are also tasty and healthy," Smith said.

"The younger kids are more open-minded about trying new foods. The parents, who are present at the sessions, can see that their children are eating hummus or something they might not have thought they would try. It encourages the families to make good food choices," said Smith.

Doria is enrolled in a special certification for yoga therapy, which will eventually allow her to expand the
programme to treat more medically complex patients.

The combination programme has been successful, with many of the patients using basic poses at home or even in the hospital's hallways, researchers said.


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