Ask Tari: What poses would you recommend for post operation Breast Cancer?

Recently, a friend, student and fellow yoga teacher asked me what poses I would recommend for breast cancer post surgery, as she is now facing this situation herself.  This is a common question, since 30% of all women’s cancer is of the breast. For that reason, I will share the answer.

The answer to this question is not as straightforward as one would expect.  But to put it simply = all of them.  The key is to understand what symptoms or issues an individual is facing, what that person needs to manage or wants to alleviate.  For example, is the individual wanting to build strength, reduce scar tissue, avoid the occurrence of lymphedema, detoxify or simply relax and manage stress?  These are all things that breast surgery and breast cancer treatments can cause, not the cancer. Thus, all yoga poses should be embraced and used to manage the side effects of cancer and its treatments.

As the question makes reference to ‘post-operation’, my feeling is that the request for poses were more about scar tissue, flexibility and, ultimately, strength of the arms and torso.  So here are four exercises that I have found useful both in my own recovery and with my students. But there are many, many more in my book – Yoga for Cancer.

1. Cactus Clap

2. Dirty Tshirt 

3. Restorative Fish

4. Full Body Stretch 

As mentioned above, these are just my recommendations for the immediate post-operation symptoms and side effects.  The management of a breast cancer surgery can often be short sighted.  Any breast surgery or lumpectomy brings other risks, like lymphedema, or loss of strength and support of other body parts and systems.  So although the initial concern might be for the breast / upper body areas post surgery, I urge everyone to embrace yoga as a tool to manage all the side effects of any cancer and its treatments. But most importantly, yoga helps keep your immune system strong reducing the risk of recurrence or other cancers.