I suspect that everyone is sick of my frequent entries about the importance of exercise. This is a twist on that more general topic. Many women find that yoga is particularly helpful after breast cancer. The gentle stretching can help with various aches and pains, may be beneficial in terms of surgical recovery, and any sense of relaxation is surely good.
This is a very good interview and summary from Living Beyond Breast Cancer. Here is the start and then a link to read more:
March 2014 Ask the Expert:
Yoga and Breast Cancer
Jnani Chapman, RN, BDN, E-RYT 500
Question: I had radiation to the armpit and an axillary lymph node dissection as part of my treatment. I know because of that I am at high risk for developing lymphedema. What poses should I avoid? Downward Facing Dog? Others?
Ms. Chapman: Dear One: Your question reminds me why I am so passionate about teaching Yoga instructors to adapt Yoga practices for people in cancer treatment and recovery. I frequently default to physiological nursing in teaching Yoga teachers, because I want them to understand the underlying dynamics that are at play in the physical body.
I personally can’t say, “These poses are counter-indicated and these poses are therapeutic,” in your situation. I would need to know a whole lot more: How many nodes were removed? Was it left- or right-sided breast cancer? Can you show me your range of motion in that arm and shoulder and the places of any discomfort or pain? How long have you been out of treatment? We need to look at all the factors and variables at play in each circumstance, with each person individually, to suggest poses that will support healing and poses
that will tax the body’s fluid dynamics.
Even while I say that, there are some generalities to offer you: Arms held overhead or at shoulder height while activating muscles (like wiggling fingers, squeezing and releasing fists) will help support lymphatic drainage and healing. Muscle actions with the arms below shoulder height can force fluids away from the drainage field and cause undue fluid pressures. If you love Downward Facing Dog, plant the affected arm without pressing weight into it, so that it is resting there for balance while most of the weight is pressing on the arm.
It is the regular exerciser who is less likely to get lymphedema than the sedentary person