Learn How Yoga Offers Relief From Cancer-Related Fatigue

Breast Cancer Yoga Pose

Angela Strynkowski, E-RYT 500 Happily Doing “Legs Over Bolster” Yoga Pose

Author: Diana Ross, E-RYT 500, Posted By: Breast Cancer Yoga Staff.

Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is very common. Fatigue can often be confused with tiredness, but there are differences between the two conditions. For one, tiredness happens to everyone, especially after certain activities or chemo – but  fatigue is less common and an excessive whole-body tiredness that is not relieved with sleep.   This debilitating condition can impact your quality of life.  It can be acute (lasting a month or less) or chronic (lasting from one month to six months or longer). The precise reason for this intensive tiredness is unknown, but practitioners believe it may be related to the process of cancer itself or chemotherapies and radiation treatments. (CRF) is one of the most common side effects of cancer and its associated treatments. Usually, it comes on suddenly, and does not result from activity or exertion. It is often described as “paralyzing.” It may continue even after treatment is complete.

If you’re a cancer survivor and feeling tired or even worse, even long after treatment, you are not alone. But you can do something about it.

About one-third of breast cancer survivors experience CRF for anywhere from a year to several years post-treatment. While there’s no conventional therapy to resolve it, studies are increasingly showing yoga can help.  Patients with different cancers report relief with exercise, specifically yoga.

Yoga designed especially for breast cancer survivors is helping women to catch a second wind.

In fact, a recent UCLA study found that three months after beginning this practice, women with post-treatment fatigue were still feeling more invigorated than before they began the exercise program. Not only do women become more energized, but they see improvement in mood and sleep; they are typically more relaxed, more aware, and more accepting of what life brings to them. All these attributes are so critical as we work toward continued mental and physical well being, and ultimately, our healing.

How does Breast Cancer Yoga target physical and emotional fatigue?

Breast Cancer Yoga helps relieve taxing fatigue by encouraging deep breathing, which increases oxygen consumption.  This deep breathing is then tied into each gentle flowing yoga movement.  Each pose is supported with props to allow for comfort and support.

Begin a yoga practice, slowly, and before long you will begin to experience positive energy, increased flexibility, and less pain.

Studies show that breast cancer survivors who practice restorative yoga poses regularly, sleep better, have less joint pain, more energy, mental clarity, increased range of motion (ROM), strength, increased resistance, and lower stress.

Exercising to gain energy and strength can be a catch all; it’s hard to exercise if you’re tired and weak but what’s nice about yoga, particularly restorative yoga, is that it doesn’t take the strength and stamina required to go out for a run or bike ride. Restorative poses can be done either in a reclined position or a supported seated position.

Technique and pacing are important.

Please don’t over do it, especially when you get started. Rather, gradually implement a daily yoga practice. Work to maintain a positive attitude and know through time and practice you will see improvement. You will actually find that recovery can be a positive, “feel good” experience. Please speak to your health care provider before starting an exercise program of any kind. For more on restorative yoga and to see more poses demonstrated, visit http://www.breastcanceryoga.com/

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 info@breastcanceryoga.com if you have questions.

Choose An Exercise Program That Is Right For You!

Exercise Program For Breast Cancer

By: Rika Keck, Medical Exercise Specialist For Women’s Wellness.

It is well known that an exercise program is supportive before, during and after surgery and treatment. Off course it is essential to see it within context of the individual, medical procedures, reaction to meds and energy levels.

Moderation is a big key and it is a great idea to work-out and to ‘work-in’ with quiet, stress reducing modalities such as meditation, Gentle Yoga, Qi Gong or a walk in Nature.

Here are a few points regarding exercise during and post-surgery and/or treatment:

  • Strength training will support bone integrity that becomes compromised with chemo and steroids. Discuss this with your physician if lymph nodes are affected in your cancer treatment or lymphodema in the arm is present.
  • A moderate/low intensity cardio program will support a healthy heart, circulation and mood – a mild sweat is a good guideline. Do wipe off the sweat so it does not re-enter the body, after all, the skin is an organ of elimination. (While undergoing radiation treatment, do discuss this with your doctor, as there are restrictions.)
  • Clothing might present some challenges. Make comfortable and organic cotton choices that allow free movement and airflow.
  • Physical therapy, post-therapy exercise will provide ROM (range of motion) as incisions start to heal. You want to avoid restrictions in movement to prevent secondary shoulder, wrist, neck and back problems. The process of regaining full range of motion after surgery does take time.
  • Acupuncture on the scares and adhesions is a good idea as scars can disrupt the nervous system. At the same time it will boost immune function and provide stress reduction. It is necessary to wait for healing of the skin.
  • Fatigue must be respected – yet a gentle exercise program will actually increase energy and support lymphatic flow.
  • Posture exercises: With the physical, emotional and psychological trauma, it is ‘normal’ to pull inwards in a protective manner esp. after surgery. Awareness and gentle exercises that pay attention to good posture will support the physical body and energetic flow between organs and glands.
  • Social support and laughter are so important. If possible seek out a fun, nurturing and safe environment. Uplifting music does help too!
  • Radiation adversely affects heart and lung health. (I am aware that this is a controversial point.) The bottom line is: Do support your cardiovascular system.

When it is cold outside, we must make sure to get our daily movement. Certainly there is nothing more refreshing and immune – stimulating than taking a brisk walk outside! However, trying to maneuver icy pavements or paths in Central Park can be challenging and this does increase the risk of falling.

I believe in ‘risk assessment’: Exercise regularly and moderately, but in a safe and fun environment.

Basic Facts: Let’s Talk About Exercise, Heart Health & Nutrition!
For bone health, esp. in menopause, it is important to add ‘stress’ on the bones. Walking is great, but it is not enough to facilitate sufficient bone stress and remodeling of bone. Walking does support a healthy cardiovascular system, lymphatic drainage and detoxification – besides burning off those Holiday treats…

Resistance training is essential to support stronger bones, especially if one has a genetically predetermined small frame. It is not about lifting heavy weights ‘a la Schwarzenegger’ and one generally does not ‘bulk up’ easily – a concern I still hear about today. Weight training for healthy bones is about a regular ‘overload’ on the connective tissue. If you carry your own shopping bags twice a week, you are doing your bones (but maybe not your back) a favor!

As a Nutrition and Exercise Specialist, I do stress that bones must be supported with good nutrition and a regular weight – training exercise program. It is also helpful not to live on an adrenaline rush. The hormones, esp. elevated cortisol, will adversely affect the mineral metabolism and bone health.

Acid-blocking medications will affect the absorption of calcium and magnesium from foods. This can result in a calcium deficiency affecting bones and teeth, increasing the risk of fractures and cavities. If you are using acid blocking meds, you are welcome to connect with me to discuss your options.

As we age, our tendons are more at risk, esp. if we have not been exposed to using weights or athletic movements. It is better to err on the side of caution by receiving expert guidance. Schedule a few sessions with a professional to get you going or join an exercise class with a good instructor. (Do your research!!!)

If there are pre-existing and additional physical restrictions e.g. joint concerns or joint replacements or other medical considerations, I would recommend starting up with the advice of an exercise professional. I have some clients, whom I meet for a few sessions to ‘get the ball rolling’.

Exercise movements that are functional and support balance training should be incorporated. Core training, stability and flexibility training must also be part of the program. All will support activities of daily living. As we age, generally it is the lack of flexibility and muscle tissue that can predispose us to a greater risk of injury, falls and decreased function.

Heart Health?
Despite all we hear about cancer, it is important to note that heart disease is still the #1 killer of men and women. Certainly, many factors play a role. However, do consider that the heart is a muscle and it needs to be kept strong with regular and continuous exercise.

Heart health requires good nutrition and regular exercise. Various medications will rob nutrients from the heart, brain and body. These nutrients include vitamins such as vitamin A, B, C, and minerals such as magnesium, zinc, calcium and CoQ10 and more…All are essential to maintain a healthy heart. If you are on medications, you would want to consider the possibility of medication induced vitamin/mineral deficiency. Chronic stress, living on an adrenaline charge and lack of sleep affects heart health adversely. Exercise is a great stress-reducing modality – but do make sure you rest too and do not over-exercise esp. cardio training!

What Else?
From a mind body perspective, integration of Yoga or other stress – reducing techniques incl. mediation are terrific.
Pilates is very popular too and it is very helpful for flexibility and reduced joint stress.

What matters most?
Choose an exercise program that is right for you!
Choose an exercise program that suits your needs, is effective and does not create pain. Sure, a little sore muscle here and there after strength work will let you now that you made ‘communication’ – your bones will be happy. What can happen with strength training is ‘Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)’. This happens within 24-48 hrs.

Before starting on an exercise program, do check in with your physician if you are on medications and/or have health concerns. Should you have had surgery, it is best to receive ‘clearance’ from the doc before starting to exercise.

In the meantime, let’s keep walking, healing and smiling!

Rika KechRika Keck is a nutrition, fitness women’s wellness consultant and contributor for Breast Cancer Authority Blog
Customized Nutrition, Medical Exercise Specialist and Women’s Wellness
NY Integrated Health
www.NYIntegratedHealth.com

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