Yoga for Breast Cancer
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For most, yoga is not the first thing that comes to mind when they think of cancer treatment. But according to the American Cancer Society, “a gentle physical activity after breast cancer surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can be imperative to a successful recovery, providing normalcy to some.” Here’s how:
Reduce Stress & Other Symptoms
Researchers at the University of Calgary studied the effects of yoga on cancer survivors by comparing a group that regularly practiced yoga against a group that did not. After a seven-week test period, the study’s findings showed that the group who did yoga experienced significantly less tension, anxiety, depression, confusion, anger, fatigue, and irritability. This is likely due to the reduced cortisol levels that come with yoga practice.
In addition, Physician and Yoga Practitioner Timothy McCall, M.D. said:
“The slower, deeper, more regular breathing that yoga facilitates can help you feel calmer and more energetic during the stressful period of being diagnosed with cancer and enduring treatment for it. Learning to cope with that stress can help you get through the ordeal, and may even improve your odds of survival.”
Build Sangha
Yoga provides a sangha— a community. For people who have been diagnosed with cancer, a support system is essential in the coping and healing processes. According to the American Cancer Society, those with cancer who feel like part of community “tend to better adjust to the changes cancer brings to their lives, have a more positive outlook, and often report a better quality of life.”
Discover Yourself
By the very nature of it, yoga encourages you to really get to know yourself. Dr. McCall said, “Yoga encourages you to listen to messages from your body (physical, emotional, and otherwise) and adjust your practice accordingly. This lesson can be extended to the rest of your life, too.”
Engage in savasana to act as meditation and bring maximum attention to your self. Lie flat on your mat or rest a pillow or blanket underneath your lower back. Bring awareness to the body starting with the crown of your head and then slowly to the rest of your body, limb by limb. Pay attention to your breath as you do this. Then bring awareness to your thoughts and your emotions before bringing your attention back to your body.
According to Dr. McCall, “The silence facilitated by such practices as meditation often allows the inner wisdom that lies deep inside you to surface. In this space… true healing can occur.”
TruFusion’s Director of Yoga Mark Balfe-Taylor’s Tips for Practicing Yoga with Breast Cancer:
  1. Always consult a doctor before practicing any form of physical activity. This cannot be emphasized enough.
  2. Start small and build gradually, evaluating what is comfortable for your body. Err on the side of being too gentle to prevent injury and overexertion. Keep movements between poses slow to evaluate your body’s response and reduce the risk of injury, and wait to do poses that are weight bearing on the upper body.
  3. Take Yin Classes. They allow you the time to make slower, more methodical movements so you can better understand your body’s needs.
  4. Speak up. Let your instructor know your situation so that they help provide the best practice for you.
  5. Pay attention to your arms. When moving, it may be best to keep your elbows bent to shorten the lever of the arms and exert less pressure at the fulcrum of the shoulder. To prevent lymphedema—a frequent complication of treatment of breast cancer especially if the lymph nodes under the arm are removed— it may be necessary to keep the arm on the affected side propped up by a supportive strap to prevent swelling.
  6. Develop meditative habits off the mat to continue to reduce stress levels. Check out our post Meditation For Beginners if you need some help getting started.
Have you battled with breast cancer and found relief in yoga or fitness? Share your story with us.
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20% of the proceeds of all Watermelon Revitalizer smoothies sold at the TruHealth Bar until October 31 will be donated to the Susan G. Komen Southern Nevada chapter!

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 SOURCES:
  • Yoga As Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing by Timothy McCall, M.D.
  • Cancer.org
  • Breastcancer.org
  • Cancer.gov
  • Everydayhealth.com/pictures/yoga-exercises-that-help-with-breast-cancer-recovery#04
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