Yoga:the breastcancer recovery key

Breast cancer survivors have a lot to think about when it comes to their recovery. There are often suggestions from doctors on what kind of food to eat, or how often to exercise in order to help reduce the chance of recurrence. But for breast cancer survivors, sometimes just the thought of exercise can make them want to sit down and rest. A cancer survivor is often weak from the treatments he or she has gone through.

Consistently, cancer survivors’ average fitness levels are about 30 percent lower than those of sedentary people without a cancer history. That’s why I think the findings of a new study that I just completed will help these patients. The results, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, show that yoga is beneficial in many ways to breast cancer survivors. Yoga provides graded exercise that can be tailored for individuals who have been sedentary, and the postures can be modified to accommodate functional limitations.

It is widely known that yoga benefits your health. Many people who practice yoga experience gains in flexibility, feel more relaxed, sleep better, have stronger muscles and also might even see a drop in their blood pressure. What my colleagues and I at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center concluded in our study is that inflammation for cancer patients also dropped when they routinely practiced yoga. [Yoga Holds Benefits for Breast Cancer Survivors]

My study was a randomized, controlled trial (RCT) of 200 women who are breast cancer survivors. I compared a 12-week hatha yoga intervention with a wait-list control condition, which is a group who did not do yoga during the study. We collected questionnaires and fasting blood samples at beginning, immediately post-treatment, and 3 months post-treatment — with both groups. Participants ranged in age from 27 years to 76 years old, and had completed cancer treatment within the past three years. We chose these participants who were at least two months past their surgery or last radiation treatment, whichever occurred last. Women in the yoga group participated in two 90-minute weekly sessions, while participants assigned to the wait-list control group were told to continue performing their usual activities, and to refrain from beginning any yoga practice. After their final assessment, they were offered the yoga classes, meaning everyone had the chance to join yoga after the study ended.
When we began this study, we hypothesized that participants who participated in yoga would have decreased inflammation, depressive symptoms and fatigue in contrast to those participants in the wait-list control. After reviewing the outcomes of all women in the study, we now know that our hypothesis was correct.

Immediately post-treatment, vitality was higher in the yoga group compared to the control group. At 3 months post-treatment, the yoga group’s fatigue was lower, vitality was higher, and the inflammation markers in their blood that we tested for (IL-6, TNF-α, and IL-1β — which are pro-inflammatory markers) were lower for yoga participants compared to those in the control group. What we also discovered is that the more a woman participated in yoga, the greater the benefits in fatigue, vitality and inflammation reduction.

Despite the fact that our participants’ weight did not change and our trial did not include aerobic or resistance exercise, pro-inflammatory cytokine production decreased significantly in yoga participants compared to the wait-list group. This is important, because inflammation enhances risk in many age-related diseases including heart disease and diabetes, and also increases the risks for cancer recurrence.

Another benefit of this trial was that we showed yoga can help cancer survivors get better rest. Previous studies have shown that up to 60 percent of cancer survivors report sleep problems during survivorship, a rate that is two or three times as high as similar adults without a cancer history. The problem with that is disturbed sleep elevates inflammation, as well as fatigue, and thus the improved sleep reported by yoga group participants likely contributed to the positive changes both at the beginning of the trial and through the 3-month post-treatment visit.

While our study may underestimate the entire list of potential benefits of yoga, the results show that yoga can have a significant benefit, and therefore I recommend that all breast cancer survivors consider adding it to their exercise plan.


Why morning yoga beats a cup of coffee

Looking for a way to get your blood pumping in the morning? Want to give your morning yoga routine a boost? Take a cue from Tarzan and Jane, then greet the sun with a salute.

First thing in the morning, maybe during your yoga sequence, try beating on your chest. Seriously.

Beat all over your ribcage, up to your collarbone, down to your belly (gently around the breasts, ladies … ). Thumping, beating, banging on your chest, wakes up your internal energy, the energy running through the meridian channels in the body. Thumping gets the energy moving forward, after a night when your energy runs backward and slows, allowing the body to rejuvenate during sleep. Thumping is like the simian cup of coffee, and stimulates your kidney, thymus and spleen energy to help get you ready to digest your breakfast and digest your day. Start your morning yoga off by thumping, then move on to a whole-body integrated wake-up.

Now that you’ve unleashed your inner jungle ferocity, let’s move on. Many of you know that the sun salutation is one of the best ways to warm up the body. It stretches you into every position possible: backbend, forward bend, inversion, twist, extension. But something even cooler about this ubiquitous yoga sequence is going on. It helps keep you young! In a study published last year in the European Journal of Cardiovascular Prevention, it was determined that getting up off the floor with as little assistance as possible was a fairly accurate predictor of longevity. In other words, if you can get down to the floor without using your hands to help you, and then get back up again, you have a higher likelihood of living a longer life.

So … enter sun salutations.

Start standing up straight in mountain pose, arms by your side. Inhale and open the arms out wide, either low, by your waist, or overhead. Exhale and lean all the way forward, hanging the body over. Beginners can keep knees slightly bent. Inhale and come back up again, opening the heart and arms. Do this a few more times, matching the breath to the movement. Just this motion of lifting up and lowering over starts to get the blood moving.

morning yoga – downward facing dog, adho muhka svanasanaNext time you come over, bring your hands all the way to the ground and step back to downward dog (shown at right). Stay in this pose for five to eight breaths, moving the body as you breathe. Pedal out the feet, stretch the spine. Don’t let your dog be static, but let the breath start to move the body and wake it up. Next come into push-up position (plank pose) and hold this for 10 to 15 breaths. If you weren’t awake yet, this should do it!

morning yoga – lunge with a twistFrom here, step your right foot forward between your hands into a lunge and, using your core strength, release your arms by lifting them up and overhead. Keep your left leg rooted in the ground, straight and strong. You can play with inhaling, straightening the front leg into a high lunge, and exhale to bend again, or stay in this low lunge and feel the groins start to soften and open. Now gently twist your upper torso, placing your left elbow on the outside of your right knee, or keep your left arm on the floor and bring the right arm up (shown at right). Breathe here deeply. Then bring your hands back down to the floor and press back to downward dog. Switch sides, lunging and twisting with the left foot forward.

morning yoga – Chair pose, utkatasanaBack to downward dog for a couple of breaths, and then come into a squat. Use a blanket rolled up under your heels if they don’t reach the ground, and again, try a spinal twist, turning and lifting one arm, then the other up to the sky. From your squat, lift up into chair pose (shown here), knees bent and torso straight and breathe here for five breaths. On an inhale, press to stand, arching up at the top and opening the arms wide. If you went from squat to chair to stand, you just managed to stand up without using your hands to help you. If this was difficult, then you need to practice. Go slowly, using your core strength and your arms to help you. If you put this into your daily morning yoga routine, in about a week you should be able to go from standing, down to the floor to standing again.

You can do this whole sequence a few times.

Mountain pose, full forward bend, downward dog, low lunge to high lunge, spinal twist, downward dog, low lunge to high lunge to spinal twist on the other side, downward dog, squat, chair pose, mountain pose. Take a moment after this to lie on your back in corpse pose and let your body digest the effects. Then you have one more chance to stand without using your hands.

After you’re complete, swing your body out, back and forth a few times. Take another few deep breaths. Thump your chest a few more times. And then head out into your day!

You’ll live longer, breathe better, and be happier.


Detox Asana: 8 Yoga Poses Away From a Cleaner You

Been overdoing it a little this time of year? If your body could use some fine-tuning, you can do more than sip on detoxing green juice. Hop on your yoga mat, and do these eight poses designed to detox the body. You have your circulatory, digestive, and lymphatic systems to thank for getting rid of toxins and waste, and these poses stimulate those systems. Pick out the poses your body needs or practice them all, and you’re on your way to feeling like a new you.

Wide-Legged Forward Bend

Not only a great pose for opening tight hamstrings, allowing your head to fall below your heart in Wide-Legged Forward Bend also reverses the pull of gravity, encouraging circulation of blood throughout the body as well as fluid to your filtering lymph nodes. The folding motion also squeezes the belly, which moves things along for digestion.

  • Stand with your feet four or so feet apart, heels turned out slightly wider than the toes. Standing tall, interlace your hands behind you, pressing the heels of your palms together in a double fist.
  • Take a deep breath in, and slowly fold forward at the waist, lowering your hands as far as you can. Keep the spine long and straight as you breathe for five deep breaths. Engage your legs, and slowly rise up to stand.
Open Side Fierce

If you want to strengthen your lower legs, Open Side Fierce will have your quads and glutes burning. This deep twist also aids in digestion. You’ll feel the gentle pressure on your kidneys, liver, and spleen, which stimulates the removal of waste.

  • Stand with both feet together, bend your knees, and squat down, coming into Fierce Pose. Cross your right elbow over your left thigh, planting your right palm on the floor beside your left foot. If you can’t reach all the way, just allow your fingers to hover in the air, as close to the floor as possible.
  • Extend your left arm straight up toward the ceiling, stacking your shoulders, and gaze at your lifted palm. Make sure both knees are parallel. Hold for five deep breaths.
  • Press into your feet, inhale to rise back up to Fierce, and exhale to repeat this pose on the right side, holding for another five breaths. Then rise back up to Fierce Pose, and straighten the legs.
Three-Legged Down Dog

Holding your head below your heart and your leg lifted in the air in this variation of Down Dog encourages blood to circulate throughout the body, as well as move fluid to the lymph nodes. If your upper body is strong, this pose can also be very relaxing, which aids in mental detox as well, releasing stress, fear, and sadness.

  • Come onto your hands and knees, so your hands are shoulder-width distance apart, with your knees directly below each hip. Tuck your toes and straighten your legs, coming into Downward Facing Dog.
  • Keeping your shoulders parallel with the floor, step both feet together and raise your right leg into the air. After five deep breaths, lower the leg and repeat this pose with the left leg lifted.
Seated Heart Opener

Poor posture can stifle proper lung function, and doing this Seated Heart Opener encourages lengthening of the spine so your lungs can fully expand and contract with each breath. Healthy, deep breathing encourages the body to eliminate carbon dioxide, lactic acid, lymphatic fluid, and other wastes.

  • Begin seated on your shins.
  • Interlace your hands behind you in a double fist, pressing the heels of your palms together. Pull your pressed palms toward the floor, opening through the chest and shoulders.
  • After five breaths, release your hands.
Seated Spinal Twist

Twisting poses are all about aiding in digestion, which encourages the elimination of wastes. Take this Seated Spinal Twist as deeply as you want to go.

  • Begin seated on your mat with your legs extended in front of you. Bend both knees, and place your left heel as close to your right sit bone as you can. Cross your right foot over your left knee, and plant it on the floor so your outer right ankle is next to your left knee.
  • Reach your right arm behind you, and place your palm on the floor. Cross your left elbow over your outer right thigh to gently increase the twist.
  • Gaze behind you and over your right shoulder, staying here for five breaths. Then release the twist, straighten your legs out in front of you, and do this pose with your left knee pointing up.
Head to Knee C

As bizarre as this pose looks, folding forward over your heel in this variation of Head to Knee Pose is meant to gently massage and stimulate your inner organs.

  • Begin in a seated position with both legs straight out in front of you.
  • Bend your right knee, and hold your right foot with your left hand. Bring your right arm under your right leg, and reach around to grab on to the arch with your right hand.
  • Pull your right toes down gently, and place the sole of your right foot against your left inner thigh so your right heel is pointing up.
  • Lengthen through the spine, and fold your torso over your left leg. Place your hands on the floor on either side of your leg or on your shin. If your hamstrings and hips are more flexible, reach for your foot — the right hand holds the left wrist.
  • Rest your forehead on your leg, and stay here for five breaths. Continue lengthening the spine as you relax the shoulders away from your ears.
  • Then release your hands, sit up, and switch sides.

This pose strengthens the back of the body, but the pressure on your abdomen also encourages digestion.

  • Lie on your belly with your legs together. Place your arms by your sides with your palms facing up.
  • As you inhale, lift your legs, head, and upper body off the floor. Your hands remain on the floor for support.
  • As you breathe, relax your shoulders and the muscles in your bum. Extend the crown of your head away from your toes, lengthening as much as you can through your spine.
  • Hold for five breaths, and then release back to the mat.
Bound Headstand

Another pose where your heart is above your head. Headstand removes toxins in the circulatory and lymphatic systems. This is also a pose that’s typically held for 10 breaths or longer, and focusing on deep breaths clears out carbon dioxide from the lungs.

  • If you’re new to this pose, sit facing a wall. Place your clasped fingers and head on the floor about eight inches or so away from the wall.
  • Straighten your legs, and walk your feet toward your head. Bend one knee, and tuck it into your chest. Using your abs and hamstring flexibility, lift your other leg off the floor so both knees are tucked into your chest, in a pose called Bound Headstand Prep: Tuck.
  • With complete control, slowly lift and straighten both legs up, coming into Bound Headstand. If balancing is hard, bend one knee and place the sole of your foot on the wall.
  • Hold for five, 10, or more breaths. Then slowly bend your knees into your chest, lower your feet to the floor, and rest in Child’s Pose.

Source: Pop Sugar