Simple Yoga for Breast Cancer Patients and Survivors

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, which provides for a wonderful opportunity to review practices that can help breast cancer patients and survivors. Please pass this info on to anyone who needs it! 

Yoga is a tool that helps relax and calm a person’s mind and body. It can be helpful to cancer patients and survivors in innumerable ways. Those who are currently undergoing treatment are familiar with many of the unpleasant side effects of radiation and chemotherapy, which can range from nausea to fatigue to insomnia. With its vast array of physical postures, breathing and meditation techniques, yoga can soften some of these difficult symptoms. Additionally, gentle yoga has been shown to slow down the sympathetic nervous system, which helps to alleviate stress and anxiety.

Post treatment, many women may be dealing with limited mobility due to scar tissue and other factors. Simple yoga stretches can help one regain strength, flexibility and stamina.

Try these simple yoga postures and breathing techniques at home:

To open the chest and release tension in the back:

Start on all fours, with the wrists directly underneath the shoulders, and the knees hip-distance apart. Inhale and release the heart and belly towards the floor. Let the head follow with the spine as you draw your gaze upwards. Exhale and round the back up towards the ceiling, drawing the belly into the spine and the chin towards the chest. Continue 1-3 minutes.

Spinal Flexes:
Sit cross-legged on the floor, or in a chair. Inhale as you lift the heart forwards and gently draw the shoulders back. Widen across your collarbone and chest. Exhale, release and round your back, slightly tilting your pelvis underneath you. Continue 1-3 minutes.

To calm the nerves:

Anti-anxiety breathing:
Inhale through the nose. Exhale through a rounded mouth. Inhale through a rounded mouth (as though you are sipping through a straw). Exhale through the nose. Continue this cycle for 3 minutes.

Alternate Nostril Breathing:
1.     Draw your right hand up, keeping your shoulders relaxed.
2.     Block off your right nostril with your right thumb and inhale through your left nostril.
3.     Block off your left nostril with your little finger and exhale through the right nostril.
4.     Keeping the left nostril closed, inhale through the right nostril.
5.     Block off the right nostril and exhale through the left nostril.
Continue this cycle for 3 minutes.

To re-energize and recharge:

Right nostril breathing:
Block off your left nostril with your left thumb. Breathe long and deep through your right nostril. Continue 1-3 minutes.

Heart center meditation:
Sit on the floor or in a chair. Cross your hands over your heart center. Breathe long and deep, visualizing a bright white or golden ball of light at your heart center. Visualize this light filling up your entire body, spreading light to any part that needs healing. Imagine that this light can burn up any old fatigue, illness or negativity, and replace it with light.

To relieve insomnia:
Vipariti Karani (legs-up-the-wall pose):
Lie on your side next to the wall with your knees towards your chest, as though you are in the fetal position. Bring your buttocks close to the wall and walk your legs up the wall. Rest on your back with your legs up against the wall. Release your hands by your sides, with the palms up. Rest for 3-5 minutes.

Resources for cancer patients:

The Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center 

WeSpark Cancer Support Center:

The Wellness Community

Tower Cancer Research Foundation