I was deeply disturbed to learn that The Bernard Osher Foundation and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health are funding experiments in which mice were injected with cancer tumor cells or inflammatory agents and subjected to forced stretching before they were killed.
This research, which claims to have relevance for yoga stretching in breast cancer patients, is riddled with problems that render it inapplicable for humans.
For one, the mice did not experience a naturally occurring cancer but were injected with mouse breast cancer cells. Increasingly, scores of studies have pointed out how these cancerous states do not approximate human cancer.
In addition, handling and holding mice by their tail induces anxiety and has been criticized as an improper method for handling. Studies have even raised concerns that this method of handling mice may invalidate research results. [See Gouveia K, Hurst JL (2013) Reducing Mouse Anxiety during Handling. PLoS ONE 8(6): e66401.]
Forcing mice to stretch does not reflect the mind-body interaction in yoga that combines focused breathing with periods of exertion and release. Further, no yoga pose is ever held for ten straight minutes or involves external pulling that cannot be controlled by the practicing person.
True yoga stretching requires full relaxation into the stretch whereas these experiments used anxiety-ridden mice. As such, this senseless study merely inflicted unjustifiable misery and death on defenseless animals.
Multiple human studies have already shown the benefits of physical activity for decreasing the reoccurrence of cancer and enhancing survival for breast cancer patients, who would be much better served through a cooperation between clinical researchers and yoga practitioners.
I respectfully ask that you cease funding of antiquated and cruel animal studies like this one, and instead support humane, clinical studies that directly benefit human cancer patients.