Yoga and Breast Cancer 

In last month’s blog we mentioned Beat It – Cancer Exercise Rehab by fitness instructor Ondie Woods. This is an exercise class for people who have been treated for breast cancer. It is a well-known fact that exercise can aid recovery and also plays a huge role in lowering your risk of cancer overall. 

Exercise not only benefits physical health, but mental health too and undoubtedly one of the most effective types of exercise for the mind is yoga. Practised for centuries, this ancient form of exercise and meditation can be so beneficial. Recent studies have now shown that yoga can be a huge help to people who are being treated for breast cancer as well as those further along in their recovery. 

Several studies have found that yoga can improve physical wellbeing and emotional health. Hatha yoga, in particular, was found to improve physical activity and fitness. Yoga can also reduce symptoms in patients undergoing treatment for breast cancer. It has been shown to reduce chemotherapy side effects and patients have shown less fatigue, improved relaxation and better cognitive function. Breast cancer patients found that yoga increased quality of life overall while reducing anxiety and depression following surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Women who took part in a study practicing yoga daily for six weeks felt that they also had more confidence in social settings. 

While more strenuous poses (especially those that can put strain on the chest, arms and shoulders) should be avoided during and after treatment, gentle yoga can be a beneficial complementary treatment for the symptoms of illness, including nausea.  

As with any exercise, you should consult your doctor before starting a new programme and patients with bone metastasis should be extra cautious due to an increased risk of fracture. Patients with lymphedema should also be careful not to try certain poses.  

However, all patients can benefit from the meditation of yoga for increased relaxation, better sleep, improved stress levels and reduced anxiety. Experienced yoga teachers are used to modifying poses for many reasons and will be able to advise on the best ones to enable safe practice. If you are new to yoga, it might be an idea to try one to one practice initially until you are comfortable with the poses. Of course, yoga is a great practice for anyone, not only those coping with an illness. In this busy world, why not make some time for yourself and discover how yoga can help you.