Breathing, Yoga and Cancer

Breathing Yoga & Cancer

By: Jean Di Carlo Wagner: Owner of E-RYT200, E-RYT500 Certified Yoga Therapist with Yoga Alliance.

Breathing and yoga are powerful and have immediate benefits for cancer patients:  Together they offer the power to gain some control over anxiety, a restless mind, and the whirlwind of change that comes with a cancer diagnosis.

From my own experience of cancer, and being a caregiver to my middle sister and mother who also experienced cancer, I learned a lot of what is truly important.  I felt such a lack of control over myself during cancer treatment  that I began to control my environment to an unhealthy extent. Did I really want to use up my precious energy in cleaning? Didn’t being a good mother include cleaning, laundry, dinner and quality bedtime routines?  None of my usual touchstones of health were in place. And at one point, the dust balls in the corner seemed to mock and taunt me. I couldn’t keep up.

Dust balls are not that important, but our minds might replay messages of ineptitude about how we are coping with cancer. My mind told me that those dust bunnies were evidence of a person who was not performing her household duties and was failing physically, emotionally, and mentally.

Surveying our bodies and our breath, we take inventory of what is happening right now. When we focus our energy, we begin the process of letting go of everything else.  We are not our diagnosis.  We begin to see and feel our bodies, our emotions, and our spirits.  The breath carries us within and connects us to a greater truth.

Here’s a way to find your truth:

  • Settle into your surroundings.
  • Draw your focus to your heart center.
  • Feel your heart beating.
  • Feel your breath moving in and out.
  • As your focus becomes centered on your heart, let your heart open with each breath.
  • Listen and breathe.
  • Feel and enjoy.

I know that my students come to yoga class to invest time in themselves and their wellness.  It is a huge effort of energy and time and I don’t take that for granted. The room is set up to be inviting, relaxing, calming and accepting. We freely hug and greet one another. We take time to talk about where we are in our life’s journey or cancer journey. We do not judge ourselves or others. We simply come to place of “being.”


Jean Di Carlo WagnerAbout Jean Di Carlo Wagner: Owner of
E-RYT200, E-RYT500 certified with Yoga Alliance
Yoga Therapists with International Alliance of Yoga Therapists
Atma Yoga Teacher Training, certified 500 hours Los Angeles
A Gentle Way Yoga, certified 200 hours
Silver Age Yoga, certified 200 hours

Mastectomy and Axillary Web Syndrome

Mastectomy & CordingBy: Denise Stewart, founder of Breast and Shoulder Rehabilitation and Breast Cancer Occupational Therapist.

What is Axillary Web Syndrome?
Axillary Web Syndrome is known as AWS or Cording. Cording is easier to say and more accurately describes the problem.

Cording is tightness of normal tissue within the body and occurs predominantly after breast cancer surgery. It mostly develops in the first eight weeks, during the post- surgical healing phase, and sometimes during chemotherapy or after radiotherapy. Is it common? a review in 2014 of 37 studies, identified up to 84% of the women experienced cording after breast cancer surgery.

Initially, the tightness causes significant pain and can stop you from raising your arm or straighten your elbow. The tight tissue is just under the skin and can vary in thickness and presents as:

  • thin strings;
  • rope or cord like; or
  • a really thick band of tissue.

The very thick band which extends into the armpit has as yet not been recognized in the research literature as being typical of cording, however matches perfectly to the location and pain experience of the thinner cording experiences.

The tight tissue extends from the breast / chest area into the arm at varying levels:

  • to the armpit;
  • to the upper inside arm;
  • to the inside elbow;
  • to the inside wrist; and
  • at the trunk.

The tight tissue is thought to be part of the lymph system, which is normally fine, soft and very stretchy vessels, just under the skin. In this area of the body, the lymph system travels from the side of the rib cage across the armpit and then down the inside arm.

Researchers currently offer no clear understanding about how or why cording occurs and surgeons may refer to Cording as “normal”. Therapists experienced in breast cancer rehabilitation do offer an explanation – breast scar tissue that forms during healing attaches to nearby tissues. Initially scar tissue lacks length and stretch and may adhere to structures such as nearby lymph vessels. This can then result in a corresponding reduction in the amount of stretch at these structures.

Cording assessment relies solely on seeing tightness, feeling tightness and the presence of a common pain experience. I believe that this reliance on physical assessment has resulted in many difficulties faced by women experiencing cording:

  1. Cording is rarely discussed as a complication by the surgeon;
  2. Some forms of cording may be difficult to see and feel;
  3. Some women do not want to complain to their surgeon;
  4. There is no recognized comprehensive physical assessment of Cording;
  5. Cording assessment may not be a standard practice in the breast cancer clinic; and
  6. There is very limited research into treatment protocols.

Because of these factors it is important for women, to be aware of what Cording is and how to convey this in the best way to their breast cancer team member so treatment options can be sought.

If the mastectomy scar line and the mastectomy chest scar are tight and lack stretch then it may be difficult to see Cording. In this case the arm may not be able to be raised above shoulder height and the tight band you see may not be Cording, but the pectoral muscle. However Cording is characterised by a common pain experience: pain is felt down the inside arm and may extend even to the wrist, or side trunk, when reaching up high or out to the side. So although it may be difficult to see the tight tissue – the pain and the tightness is real and you should seek specialised rehab services.

Cording can also be difficult to see if there is a generous amount of stretchy skin or fat in the arm pit, trunk and upper arm. The tight band of tissue usually extends and connects to very deep tissue at the side of the breast. Very often this connection to the breast scar tissue is missed because of the depth of the tissue and the impaired feeling in this area after a mastectomy. Yet in this case the telling symptom is the woman feels upper arm tightness and stinging pain down the inside arm or at the trunk during stretches.

The aim of good Cording assessment is to be able to initiate your best recovery plan. If you need help to assess whether you could have Cording, I have published an e book, Cording: self-assessment guide. There are many more photos and steps to help you see, feel and measure the post- surgery tightness and movement restrictions secondary to Cording. More details can be seen at:

Denise Stewart Breast Cancer Occupational TherapistDenise Stewart, founder of Breast and Shoulder Rehabilitation and an Occupational Therapist trained in Australia at University of Queensland. Her career started at a major public hospital, providing rehabilitation to people with very serious and chronic illness and injuries.

Next Blog: Treatments for Cording

Welcome Relaxation For Breast Cancer With Yoga Nidra

Restorative Yoga For Breast Cancer Recovery Book

Photo From “Restorative Yoga For Breast Cancer Recovery”

By Diana Ross, E-RYT & Co-Founder of Breast Cancer Yoga.

It shouldn’t be a surprise to know that most of us are tense; and it doesn’t take much to get there. Now throw in an illness, disease or certain situation and that tension is compounded. I don’t know about you but it doesn’t take much for me to feel tension. It’s getting the tension to subside and go that is the challenge. Research shows tension held in the mind and body can have devastating health consequences. The benefits of relaxing the body while allowing the mind to rest can help in our recovery. Typically we may choose something artificial, like a drug to induce relaxation but the truth is it is superficial relaxation. This may mask the cause of the tensions, whereas introducing a Yoga Nidra practice can over time with regularity release the overall tensions. Learning Yoga Nidra is what will improve quality of life and healing. It is relaxation in action.

The truth is we function fully when we are relaxed. It is here when we feel a clear connection or continuous flow. However, when we lack the ability to eat well, hold positive thoughts, repeat habitual bad habits or embrace any negativity we suffer with excess tension. When we hold these tensions we begin the habit of continued holding, thus blocking the proper flow of energy and the capacity towards wellness. We know it isn’t working but we continue known the less. This is why Yoga Nidra can help us begin to remove these detrimental tensions to mind and body.

The Best Relaxation Response

Yoga Nidra, commonly known as “deep relaxation” is an integral part of yoga teachings. Yoga Nidra is a set of deep relaxation techniques that can lead you to a meditative state, which encourages a sense of well-being. Things become noticeable and vibrant, like these apple blossoms. It is usually introduced at the end of each asana (yoga) class and is known as Shavasana. It is here we begin to have a real relationship with our body and it is here also where we learn to “let go”. This letting go allows us to feel light and begin to realize the more subtle inner states of consciousness.

When we enter into the subtle realm of our conscious awareness, our body begins to relax and our mind opens to observe what is actually happening. Things just are. The more we detach from the negative thoughts, and the holding of unnecessary tensions we no longer identify with it all and we begin to find our way into a clearer space. A space where we can release, or cleanse ourself of the stresses of illness, anxieties of treatments, and fear of outcomes. The state of worry will be more manageable. When we relax the body, and calm the mind, negative emotions have no place to reside. The mind begins to be have clear thoughts and will move towards right action. The worried state dissipates leaving a tranquil state of mind, and body.

As we travel down this road of learning how to relax either through meditation, breathing or just being still we free our mind of false emotions or wrong thinking. As this begins to happen we are open to a clearer realization or higher knowledge. This will lead us to continuous relaxation in life. True relaxation comes as spiritual consciousness awakens. Yoga Nidra is the pathway to the inner expansion of awareness and a deeper balance in life.

In Yoga Nidra we appear to be in a sleep state, but we really are letting the outer world slide away and the inner world heighten. You could say that Yoga Nidra is conscious sleep or sleepless sleep. Yoga Nidra produces its greatest results by developing a regular practice of relaxation. A regular practice insures freedom from energy depleting tension, worry and fear. As a friend used to say to me “The only thing that comes from tension, worry or fear is more tension, worry and fear.” Start with 10 minutes lying down, wrapped in a blanket in a quiet place and then focus on your breath. If your mind wanders bring it back, and just let go. Try our Breathe with Purpose CD  .

Guaranteed Yoga Nidra – your relaxation response to wellness.

Diana RossAbout Diana Ross:  E-RYT 500 restorative yoga teacher, survivor that cares and founder of Breast Cancer Yoga. Diana is making a difference with Breast Cancer Yoga therapeutic products designed to support you emotionally and physically during breast cancer . We want to give you the attention and personal service you need so please email us at if you have questions.

Coping With Breast Cancer

Breast Cancer Recovery RiverBy: Dr. Robin Dilley, Licensed Psychologist

The last blog spoke about the messenger who falls asleep by the river.  I broke it down to five parts and of course I could not really do any part of it justice in the appropriate guidelines for a blog.  So here is a list of the five parts (each part an intricate part of our journey with Breast Cancer).
The significance of the river

  • The Messenger who falls asleep
  • The Strange Character that switches the message
  • The King’s unconditional love
  • The King’s Mother’s Wisdom

I touched on each of these briefly.  For the next five installments, I am going to hang out here for a while because each piece seems to have great significance to our breast cancer story.  This is Breast Cancer awareness month and the heart of our journey seems to rest in this section of the Miller’s Daughter.

The messenger falls asleep by the river.  The messenger could fall asleep anywhere, but here is carrying the grand news of the birth of the King’s first born son and he falls asleep by the river.  River’s and water often to have spiritual significance.  Last time I mentioned Moses’ in the basket down the river to the Princess and baptism.  There are many other powerful river (water) stories.  A river is like a metaphor of our life.

  • When you are the bend in the river you cannot see what is around the bend until you get past it, and then you can be pleasantly surprised or startled into fear depending on what you see.
  • A river is often beautiful flowing evenly, singing a gentle but invigorating song from the depths of its dance.
  • A river is often a mirror of our emotions.  If things are going well the river is serene, enjoyable, and inviting.

However, if a hard rain has fallen the river is muddy, swirling in anger, and foreboding.
Coping with breast cancer is like coping with a might river inside of us.  The emotional storm rocks the shores of our core-self breaking over the safe boundaries and invading our very sacred inner spaces.  The river floods our psyche and leaves debris behind for us to clean up.  In its murky and muddy waters the fears, anger, sadness and disbelief dwell.
It is in the depth of these murky waters that the messages in our brains get garbled and unruly.  What once felt like a child now feels like a freak, half dog-half human.  It is terrifying at the bottom of this murky river.  Will the storm pass and peaceful waters flow again?
One way that you can use this blog entry to help you move through those murky emotions that you may be experiencing is to journal about them, attend gently and compassionately with each emotion as if it is a precious member of your inner garden.  Of course, you are angry, afraid, overwhelmed and sad (some of the time).  The goal is to acknowledge each feeling, breath into it deeply and let it go.  Do this as often and as long as it takes for your mood to begin to clear the muddy waters.  And like the messenger, get up and move on with journey.  The message changes with our individual emotional storms let it flow and take good care.

Dr. Robin B. Dilley, author of In A Moment’s Notice: A Psychologist’s Journey with Breast Cancer is a licensed psychologist in the State of Arizona. Her eclectic practice allows her to cross diagnostic barriers and meet clients in their need assisting them to respond to life in healthy and empowering ways rather than react to life’s circumstances.

Laughter For A Healthy Breast Cancer Recovery

Happy Diana & AngelaLaughter For A Healthy Breast Cancer Recovery

By: Diana Ross, E-RYT 500
Founder: Breast Cancer Yoga

Physical & Emotional Health
I want to share my feelings on laughter and joy as part of the healing cycle of breast cancer recovery, and for that fact many other conditions. I know that laughter has a real beneficial effect on our physical, and emotional health. Laughter will literally melts stress away, so why aren’t we laughing more to relieve all the stress and improve our health? It may be a bit of a challenge to get out of our own way. To often we take life, and our circumstances to seriously and it really doesn’t serve us to do so.  I know for myself when I stop and watch anything funny I focus only on “funny”.

Medical Research on Laughter
Studies at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, March 7, 2005 has one of the most ground breaking results in terms of laughter’s role in the health of the mind and body.  There is a strong connection between blood vessel expansion (vasodilation) through laughter. Improvement to the blood flow after laughter is equal to a 15-30 minute workout. Researchers believe laughing causes the body to release beneficial chemicals called endorphins, or “natural pain killers.” The release of endorphins contribute to a sense of well-being and will counter act the effects of stress hormones, and cause the dilation of the blood vessels. Even anticipating laughter can increase endorphin levels, and help boost the immune system. All which will reduce inflammation in the body.

Laughter for Chemotherapy & Radiation Therapy
When going through chemotherapy or radiation laughing can only help. The best part of laughing is that it puts us in a positive state of mind, and that is exactly what’s needed to bring us through the physical and emotional roller coaster ride of breast cancer. Another key feature of laughter is that it moves lymph fluid around the body at a biophysical level.  Just by “over laughing”; that robust, gut explosive laughter is healing. Our immune system function is stimulated by laughter, it literally clears out old, dead waste and toxins from our organs and muscle tissue. It is important that we understand that our lymph system doesn’t have it’s own pump; we need to move around (and breath deeply) in order to properly circulate lymph. Laughter supports this function.

Important to Stay Positive and Laugh
The more we laugh the happy we will become and through the laughter we will develop a positive attitude towards everything. Even if there are times where we don’t feel it, we need to fake it. It has been shown that even when manipulated to smile people in truth feel happier. Laughter stops depression right in its tracks and boosts our immunity.

Use Laughter as Our Medicine
We know now is the time to pull out all the stops and help ourselves get better. We need to reduce our levels of chronic stress (our journey with cancer may have just begun), we need to boost our immune system function, protect our nervous system, and my God our sanity. Well, “Laughter is the Best Medicine.”

I cannot say enough about laughing, right down to the fact that the people around us will enjoy our company which will support our well being.  Go check out funny videos; YouTube is full of funny.  Rent funny movies. I guarantee a lot of laughter.

Diana RossAbout Diana Ross:  E-RYT 500 restorative yoga teacher, survivor that cares and founder of Breast Cancer Yoga. Diana is making a difference with Breast Cancer Yoga therapeutic products designed to support you emotionally and physically during breast cancer . We want to give you the attention and personal service you need so please email us at if you have questions.

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