Yoga For Breast Cancer: Stretches To Relieve Your Treatment Symptoms

Certain cancers, such as breast cancer, along with its several therapies and treatments may potentially cause symptoms such as decreased range of motion, nausea, fatigue, and general weakness. Exercising and as well as other physical therapies, like yoga, can ease most of these symptoms. It can also help patients feel much better during cancer treatments.. Another positive benefit is that it can be scaled and modified to fit every patient’s unique abilities and needs.

“The practice of yoga has quite a few emotional, mental, and physical and benefits for pretty much all cancer patients,” claims Ann Marie Turo, OTR/L Ann is a yoga instructor that teaches in Dana-Farber’s Leonard P. Zakim Center for just such Integrative Therapies. There, she teaches practices like Hatha yoga, chair yoga, yogalates (which is a Pilates and yoga fusion), Pilates, as well as a foot fitness course.

Breast cancer patients that may experience lymphedema directly after radiation or surgery, Ann claims that yoga may assist them in improving strength and mobility and restoring range of motion in the arms. Yoga is also known to relieve anxiety and stress, which then lead to lower blood pressure and heart rate.

Director of the Zakim Center and Breast oncologist in Dana-Farber’s Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers, Jennifer Ligibel, MD, says, “studies have shown more and more that breast cancer patients practicing yoga report many positive signs. This may include diminished anxiety, increased energy, and generally improved well-being and quality of life”. She also stated, “The very goal of our Zakim Center is to give patients the tools for integrative therapies that hold proven benefits, like yoga, to assist their healing process during and after their regular treatments.”

Certain positive aspects of routine yoga practice involve improved respiratory, bone, and cardiovascular health along with increased body awareness, improved blood flow and a better sleep, mood, and focus. These things are often compromised during cancer treatments.

In addition, Ann claims, “Yoga is a ‘feel-good’ exercise, and it is a tool that you can just about use anywhere – while sitting on a chair, in bed, or on yoga a mat.”

Ann suggests easing into a specific yoga routine known to help with your symptoms. A number of her favorite yoga poses can be done while at a desk or sitting in a chair. View the 6 Yoga Stretches below for a beginner’s guide to stretches and poses that will aid in increasing body awareness and range of motion after breast cancer treatment.

6 Yoga Stretches For Breast Cancer Patients

Firstly, sit at the edge of a chair with your feet parallel, knees above the ankles, rib cage above the hips, and shoulders relaxed.

Neck Stretches

Benefits: Increase range of motion and release tight muscles

Take your right hand over your head and place the middle finger on the left ear. Inhale through the nose as your stomach rises, and exhale through the nose as your stomach contracts and you gently draw your head to the right shoulder. Hold for one to two breaths. Return to starting position and repeat on the other side.

Neck Rotation

Benefits: Increase range of motion and releases tight muscles

Take your right hand and place it in front of the left shoulder. Inhale through your nose as you feel your stomach expand, then exhale and rotate head toward the left. Hold for one to two breaths. Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

Shoulder Rolls

Benefits: Increase shoulder awareness and range of motion

Inhale through your nose and raise your shoulders up toward your ears as your stomach expands. As you exhale, roll your shoulders back and down in a circular motion. Repeat three to four times and switch directions.

Goal Post Arms

Benefits: Increase shoulder awareness and range of motion

Inhale through your nose and raise both arms to shoulder height so they look like goal posts. Inhale and hold. As you exhale, raise your arms up one to two inches then return to shoulder height. Repeat three to four times.

Scapular Retraction

Benefits: Increase shoulder awareness and range of motion

Beginning in goal post position, inhale and bring your shoulders back, imagining cracking a walnut between your shoulder blades. Hold for one to two breaths then exhale and release. Repeat three to four times.

Modified Camel

Benefits: Opens chest muscles

Inhale through the nose as your stomach expands. As you exhale, circle the arms around to the back of the chair and hold. Hold for several breaths and then return to start. Repeat three to four times.

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