Being diagnosed with breast cancer can leave you feeling terrified and confused. You’ll more than likely find yourself going through several rounds of chemotherapy, being administered drugs and in severe cases, you may have to have a mastectomy. One of the lesser known and discussed side effects of cancer is a newly found mistrust of your own body – it can be easy to feel as if it has let you down.
One well-known form of exercise that can help rebuild your appreciation of your own body is yoga. Whether you are still undergoing treatment or you have successfully fought off the disease, yoga can be a gentle way of maintaining your overall health without over-exerting yourself. Practicing yoga also allows you to repair the link between your body and mind, ensuring your overall spiritual wellness.
Not all yoga positions are available whilst you’re in treatment and recovery, however, these five positions are tried and tested ways for breast cancer patients to enjoy yoga and love their bodies…
Savasana is an ideal position for someone rediscovering their body – focusing on the release of muscle tension and stress. In many yoga studios, the savasana is largely rushed through in a couple of minutes.
However, in traditional yoga practices it is not uncommon for someone to hold the position for as long as 30 minutes. This is because true spiritual yoga should be about taking the time to understand the flexibility of your own body as it aligns with your mind.
Underneath your back place a pillow and a rolled up blanket in a stack at one end of the mat and lie down with your back on the stack.
Keep your feet flat as you bring your knees together and open your legs on each side of the mat, with your knees bent and with your palms facing upwards by your sides.
Take a few deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling.
A mainstay in any yoga routine, the bridge pose is particularly useful for those suffering or recovering from breast cancer because it promotes improved circulation in the breast muscles and stretches the muscles in your chest. Overall it is a pose that works your core which is at the heart of keeping your body in the best shape it can be.
Begin by lying on your back, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor hip-width apart. Lightly touch your heels with your fingertips.
Push your feet into the floor, breathe out and lift up your hips.
Push down into your arms and shoulders in order to lift your chest. Push through your legs and bum to push your chest higher.
Hold for 4-8 breaths.
Warrior II is one of the ultimate strengthening positions in yoga. It works on your core, your legs and crucially allows you to open out your chest. The position allows you to focus your mind on being grounded whilst you extend your body. A real confidence builder after a serious illness! Take stock of yourself and the strength your body truly has whilst in this position.
Starting in mountain pose, turn your right toes to the right and bend your right knee directly over the right ankle.
Turn your hips and shoulders towards the front and reach out your fingertips as far as possible with your arms extended both ways.
Press your feet into the ground, keeping your legs sturdy.
Gently sink your hips down towards the floor, and lengthen your spine by keeping the crown of your head straight and high.
Roll your shoulders down and back and push your chest outwards.
Hold for 3-6 breaths.
Another yoga pose that allows you to gently test out your chest muscles as you slowly take breaths to expand your chest, shoulders and back.
It also builds up strength and stamina in your thighs which is a fantastic way to begin the process of trusting your body – your legs power you wherever you go so feeling their strength will grow your confidence.
Begin in the Downward Facing Dog position.
As you breathe out, step your right foot forward and place it beside your right hand and keep it in line with your right knee and over the top of your right ankle.
Place your left knee on the floor behind your hips.
As you breathe in, lift up your body and bring your arms above your head keeping your palms facing one another.
On your next outward breath, bring your hips forward and down until you feel a deep stretch in your left leg.
Lower your tailbone towards the ground and lengthen your lower back. This will engage your core muscles.
Place your thumbs into your back and push your chest upwards as you gently begin a back bend.
A relaxing and meditative way to end any routine, the hero pose also known as virasana, promotes good posture and reduces swelling. If you are still going through chemotherapy it is known to help with your digestive process and can lessen feelings of nausea.
Quietly stretch out your thighs, sit up straight and breathe deeply to finish off your recovery routine.
Begin the position on your knees with your thighs parallel and your knees hip width apart.
Gently lower your forehead to the ground and push your hands into your calf muscles.
Slide your hands down the length of your legs down to your feet, before sitting down on the mat.
Put your hands on your thighs and lengthen your spine with your toes pushed into the ground. Hold this position for a minute or two.
Breast cancer can leave you feeling weak and self-conscious. Yoga can remind you of your body’s strength and boost your self-confidence. So roll out your mats, try these poses and help your body on the road to recovery.