Can Yoga Help Breast Cancer?

By: Steph Ball-Mitchell, E-RYT-500, RPYT, RCYT, YACEP

Can Yoga Help Breast Cancer?

Can Yoga Help Breast Cancer

Can yoga help breast cancer?  This is a question I've been asked on multiple occasions.  I'm not a doctor, but as a yoga teacher I set out to get answers to this question.  Yoga can be effective in indirectly helping people cope with breast cancer.  There is no evidence I could find that shows yoga cures cancer in anyway.  Yoga is helpful in the sense that it can help to regulate functions in the body such as body temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, brain waves and digestion.  There is plenty of documentation that supports this.  We also know for sure that yoga can be used to help combat fatigue and stress.  In these ways, a regular yoga practice can help support breast cancer patients, reducing the symptoms of the illness and helping patients to better cope.

What Is Breast Cancer?

Breast cancer is a type of cancer that starts in one or both breasts and can grow from there.  Breast cancer is normally found in women, but men can get it also.  There are multiple types of breast cancer.  

Warning Signs of Breast Cancer May Include:

How Can Yoga Help Breast Cancer?

About 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer over a lifetime.  As yoga teachers, it is helpful to understand how yoga can help with symptoms of breast cancer. 

Yoga can help to ease the symptoms of breast cancer.  Lots of research shows that when people practice yoga, they release "feel good hormones" such as Oxytocin, Endorphins and Serotonin.  These hormones help the body to relax, decrease anxiety and calm the mind.  This helps yoga practitioners to cope with breast cancer.

When women are going through treatment for breast cancer or recovering from breast cancer, yoga can improve sleep quality, minimize fatigue, decrease depression, decrease joint pain, increase mobility and flexibility and ease discomfort and anxiety that comes along with the illness.

Yoga Poses for Breast Cancer Awareness

Any of these poses are helpful for reducing symptoms of breast cancer and breast cancer treatment. You can create a sequence that includes all of these poses or theme a class around one of these poses specifically. 

Cat/Cow Pose

Cat pose gives us that sweet flexion of the spine while cow pose offers us energizing spinal extension.  Balancing these two postures together can bring a sense of harmony and well-being while stretching and strengthening the spine and back muscles.  It stimulates your digestive organs.  

Head to Knee Pose

Head to Knee Pose, Janu Sirasana, calms the mind and reduces mild depression symptoms.  It reduces pain in the legs, through the waist and low back.  It helps with digestion and can be helpful for insomnia.  

Reclined Bound Angle Pose

Supta Baddha Konasana, reclined bound angle pose, is helpful in calming the mind.  It's one of the most relaxing yoga postures ever.  It can be especially relaxing in the restorative form with a bolster behind the back and blankets under the knees for support. It opens the inner thighs, groins and hips.  It stimulates the heart and improves circulation.  

Fish Pose

Fish pose is commonly associated with breast cancer awareness and women's health.  There is something about having your heart shining open to the sky that feels very healing.  The energizing nature of fish pose can combat the fatigue often felt when going through breast cancer treatment.  

Meditation for Breast Cancer Awareness

Tibetan Medicine Meditation

Researchers did a study of 62 women with breast cancer.  They led the patients in five sessions of Tibetan medicine meditation and checked their moods at both baseline and after each of the sessions.  Results showed a decrease in the categories of anger and hostility, anxiety and tension, and depression.  This left researchers to conclude that this form of Tibetan medicine meditation was effective in lowering the emotional distress of breast cancer patients. 

Guided Imagery

Guided imagery can also be helpful for patients with breast cancer and survivors.  It allows us to use our imaginations to recreate mental visions, sounds, smells, and tastes to ease anxieties.  There isn't one specific guided imagery that works, but many will work.  I think the idea of a healing light is helpful.  It may also be comforting to feel surrounded by light.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation brings us into the here and now.  Coming into the present moment is helpful for anyone dealing with illness.  It reminds us that yesterday is gone and tomorrow isn't here yet, but we have the here and now.  This can bring a sense of ease.  

Mudra and Mantra for Breast Cancer Awareness

Samana Mudra 

Samana Mudra can help to make breast cancer patients more receptive to treatment.  Samana mudra has to do with the Samana Vayu and the movement of life force energy.  It regulates assimilation and helps the body to receive the substances being introduced. 

You can practice Samana Mudra before the infusion date or during the actual treatment for breast cancer.

To practice Samana Mudra, with the palm face up, you bring all of the tips of the fingers to touch the tip of the thumb.  Keep the fingers soft without applying a lot of pressure.

Prana Mudra

A lot of people like Prana Mudra after treatment to help the body restore its energy.  

To practice prana mudra, the tips of the pinky and ring finger come to touch the thumb while the index and middle finger are extended straight out.

Mantras for Breast Cancer

  • I am brave.
  • I am strong.
  • I am fierce.
  • I can do this.
  • I have peace.