Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors

Patients who have recently been diagnosed with breast cancer or those undergoing treatment often suffer from fatigue, depression and anxiety, and may have an altered sense of their body image. Learning how yoga can improve your sense of wellness through stretching, body awareness and relaxation is the next step in healing and recovery. Additionally, a class provides a positive healing environment where you are around others experiencing similar health situations, and you may not feel so alone.

Take an active role in your recovery
Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center, the VT/NH affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and Southwestern Vermont Medical Center’s Wellness Connection offer free Gentle Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors classes that can help you improve your symptoms and well-being. Through various relaxation exercises, participants are able to benefit from greater healing. The classes begin with a focus on simple breathing and body movements. Participants learn how to assume relaxing positions that help loosen, stretch, and strengthen the body. Class members learn to become comfortable holding new body postures, an experience similar to having to grapple with the unfamiliar experiences of diagnosis, treatment and recovery. Class members report that they enjoy sharing a class with others who have experienced similar cancer experiences, while at the same time achieving acceptance and total relaxation. They view the class as a special time in the day set aside to relax, breathe slowly, and get in tune with their inner selves.

Don’t worry about whether you have enough flexibility or strength. Your level of physical conditioning or previous yoga experience is not important. This class is for all levels of students, including those who have never tried yoga before. Since each person is affected by breast cancer differently, we explore many options so all students benefit.

 
Benefits

The classes focus on bringing you in touch with your body to aid in your healing and recovery process by:
• Stretching and strengthening shoulder and chest muscles
• Helping regain range of motion
• Reducing the tightness of scar tissue
• Utilizing breathing techniques to promote mind and body healing

Plus, practicing yoga has many benefits that are not just physical in nature including:
• Reducing sleep problems
• Lessening fatigue
• Decreasing stress levels
• Energizing your mind, body, and spirit
• Encouraging deep relaxation, promoting deep healing
• Increasing your sense of well being and overall quality of life

Remember to consult your doctor before you begin practicing yoga. Perform yoga poses carefully and slowly, paying attention to the sensations in your body. Should you experience pain or discomfort, do not perform the pose until you have further guidance from a professional.

Jane Schaeffer, MA, RYT, is the class instructor for Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors. To learn more about Yoga for Breast Cancer Survivors and other classes, visit www.svhealthcare.org/events. “Health Matters” is a weekly column meant to educate readers about their personal health, public health matters, and public policy as it affects health care.