Google+ Mommy Moments with Abby: Using Yoga to Battle Breast Cancer

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Using Yoga to Battle Breast Cancer

Two decades ago, yoga felt like a fad in American society. After more and more have given it a shot, most have begun to recognize the tangible health benefits to doing yoga. Stretching, in general, can loosen the muscles and improve overall physical fitness, and yoga can also have significant psychological benefits.

Recent research has shown that yoga can be especially beneficial for women battling breast cancer. There are numerous benefits to this form of exercise, and it can equip women physically and psychologically to confront their condition.

The Benefits of Yoga

There are numerous benefits to doing yoga for all people, and these benefits can be especially helpful for women with breast cancer. A class usually lasts between half an hour and 90 minutes, and the class consists of posing in a variety of positions while focusing on breathing and relaxation of the mind. There are several levels of yoga classes, from beginner’s classes that mostly focus on breathing techniques and meditation to more advanced classes that require a high level of physical strength and flexibility, along with mental strength.

Essentially, yoga is a combination of significant but safe exercise with mental relaxation and meditation. Both parts of the exercise can be helpful for women with breast cancer, as well as people dealing with other types of cancer. First, cancer improves overall fitness, preparing the body for other forms of therapy that can take a significant toll on the body. In addition, yoga is known to provide higher levels of energy, thereby helping cancer patients overcome some of the fatigue that comes with chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

In addition, beyond the physical benefits, yoga can be hugely helpful for the psyche. Scientific studies have shown that an optimistic attitude leads to a much higher success rate against illness. 

How to Get Started

Even if you have never done yoga before, people battling cancer are increasingly turning to yoga as a form of therapy and, as such, there is an increasingly large array of options from which women with breast cancer can choose.

When choosing your yoga class, you should start by asking your oncologist or cancer center staff for class recommendations. Your doctor or medical facility staff should be able to connect with a good option for a yoga class. Yoga instructors who have experience working with women who use yoga as therapy for cancer will be better suited as you enter the world of yoga. If you aren’t able to find a class through your center, choose a beginner’s level class (“hatha”) so that the poses don’t prove to be too strenuous.

In either case, you should talk to your yoga instructor about your circumstances as soon as you start with the class. If the class is not tailored specifically for women with breast cancer (or individuals fighting other forms of cancer), some of the poses may simply be beyond your ability, but discussing this with your instructor can help them work with you to create some suitable replacement routines.

Staying Safe

The most important consideration after joining a yoga class is staying healthy. This should serve as a form of therapy for you, but you should keep in mind that it can be unsafe in certain situations.

For women with breast cancer that has metastasized to the bone, certain poses can carry a high risk, because the bones are more fragile and thus more susceptible to fracturing. In any case, you should be aware of your body’s response to the stretching and posing. If you experience pain, you should immediately leave the pose. Yoga may challenge the muscles, but the challenge should never amount to pain.

Guest Post Author: Valerie Johnston is a health and fitness writer located in East Texas. With ambitions of one day running a marathon, writing for ensures she keeps up-to-date on all of the latest health and fitness news.

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