Yoga for Breast Cancer

Yoga instructor Sarah Bergman demonstrates poses designed for breast cancer patients

SARAH BERGMAN: For the following sequence, you will need a stable chair and a yoga mat.

The first range of motion is elevation. Shrug your shoulders up towards your ears – one, two, and three.

The next range of motion is depression. Lower your shoulders downward away from your ears – one, two, and three. Good.

Protraction or abduction.

On an inhale, please lift your arms to shoulder height. Reach your arms forward so that your shoulder blades move away from your spine – one, two, and three.

Exhale slowly. Lower your palms to your thighs.

Retraction or adduction.

On an inhale, please lift your arms to shoulder height. Draw your arms back and encourage your shoulder blades together – two and three.

Exhale and lower your palms to your thighs. Good.

On an inhale, please lift your arms to shoulder height. Exhale and relax any tension in your neck and jaw. Inhale. Raise your arms over head. Exhale. Lower your arms to shoulder height. Inhale, two. Exhale. Inhale, three. And exhale. Keep your arms at shoulder height.

Extension. Sweep your straight arms right behind you ears – one, two, and three.

Inhale your arms up to shoulder height and exhale, lower your palms to your thighs.

Medial rotation. Inhale your arms up to shoulder height. And exhale, roll your upper arm bones and the tops of your hands towards one another. Inhale – two. Exhale. Inhale – three. Exhale. And lower your palms to your thighs.

Lateral rotation. Rotate your upper arm bone externally. Inhale your arms up to shoulder height. And exhale, soften the muscles of your neck. Inhale – one, roll your upper arm bones away from one another, palms facing up and out. Exhale, return the palms to face down. Inhale – two. Exhale. Inhale – three. And exhale, lower your palms to your thighs.

Adduction. Inhale your arms up to shoulder height. And exhale, turn your palms to face one another. Bring your arms toward each other until your palms touch. Inhale, bring your arms back to shoulder distance apart. Exhale – two, palms touch. Inhale – three. And exhale. Bring your arms back to shoulder distance apart.

Abduction. Inhale, stretch your arms away from your body at shoulder height. Exhale and bring your arms back to shoulder distance apart. Inhale – two. Exhale. Inhale – three. Exhale. And lower your palms to your thighs.

Now we will integrate these range-of-motion movements into yoga in poses. You can practice all of the following poses seated in a stable chair sitting upright or standing tall in tadasana mountain pose with your feet hip distance apart.

Upward hand pose: Bring your hands up to shoulder height. Inhale, stretch your hands straight up and spread your shoulder blades apart. Exhale, bring your arms to shoulder level. Good. Inhale – two, stretch them up. Exhale. Inhale – three. And exhale, lower your palms to your thighs.

Upward prayer position: Lift your arms to shoulder height to prepare. Inhale, begin to lift your arms straight up. Look to your hands as you move your palms as together as close as feels comfortable. If possible, press your palms together. Exhale, slowly begin to lower the prayer down through the midline. Then release your hands alongside your body.

Inhale – two. Begin to reach your arms up, palms face one another and maybe touch at the top. Exhale, steadily lower your prayer and gaze to your heart center. And then release your hands alongside your body.

Exhale – three. Broaden your collarbones as you stretch your arms up. Exhale, slowly lower your hands to your heart in the prayer position. And then release your arms alongside your body.

Prayer position behind your back: Inhale, stretch your arms out wide. Exhale and grab either elbow behind your back. Widen your collar bones as you slide your shoulder blades down your back and take your shoulder head slightly back. Breathe deeply and slowly through your nose for three full rounds of breath.

Half cow face pose: Inhale and reach your left hand up, palm facing your body. Exhale and reach your right hand to the upper arm bone and rotate it externally. Bend your elbow and bring your palm right in between your shoulder blades. Stay here for three breaths, encouraging your elbow upward and your shoulder blade down the back.

Inhale and extend your right arm out to the side with the palm facing backwards. Begin to reach your right fingertips up towards your left fingertips. Continue to take the right shoulder head back as you slide your elbows towards one another.

If your hands do not touch, you can use a belt or a strap or grab hold of your t-shirt to move your upper arm bones towards one another. Release your right hand down first and then the left. Take a huge breath in and exhale empty out.

Eagle pose: Inhale your arms out to the sides.

Exhale, cross your right arm over your left.

Lift your crossed elbows up and soften your shoulders downward away from your ears. Bend your elbows. Snug the right elbow into the crook of the left elbow and begin to move the backs of your hands toward one another.

If possible press your palms together and lift your elbows. If you cannot snug your right elbow into the crook of your left elbow, please practice crossing your arms and reaching them in opposite directions. Wherever you are in the pose, take three deep breaths and settle into the stretch. Good.

Next side – inhale your arms out to the sides. Exhale, cross your left arm over your right. Bend your elbows. Snug the left elbow into the crook of the right elbow and begin to move the back of your hands towards one another. If possible, press your palms together and lift your elbows. Take three deep breaths and settle into the stretch. Good. Inhale your arms out to the sides and release your palms down to your thighs.

Child’s pose: Now make your way onto all fours on your yoga mat or a comfortable rug.

Please make sure that your knees are right under your hips and hip distance apart and your palms are under your shoulders, shoulder distance apart. Spread all 10 fingers and press your palms into the ground. Take a deep breath in and with your exhale slowly stretch your hips back to your heels. Rest the center of your forehead on the ground. Keep your hands engaged with the mat and lift your forearms and elbows off the ground.

If this stretch is too much in your armpit area or anywhere else, please lower your elbows to the mat.

Now, sense a melting of your heart area downward as you exhale and relax into the opening that this pose offers. To come out of this pose, press back into all fours. Tuck your 10 toes under and walk your hands back to about a foot in front of your knees. Using your thigh muscles, lift your hips, lower your heels to the ground, reach your bum back and lift your knees.

Continue to walk your hands toward your feet then place your hands on your hips. Leading with your chest, reach your spine long to come up to stand with a straight torso. Ground down through the soles of your feet and release your arms alongside your body.

Step your feet two to three feet apart and make sure that your feet are parallel to one another.

Spread your 10 toes so you have a solid foundation to reach your arms behind your back and interlace your 10 fingers. Move your upper arm bones toward each other and feel the stretch across your chest and shoulder girdle. If you find you are jutting your front ribs out to do this, draw your floating ribs toward your spine and soften your buttock flesh down toward your heels. After six to 10 deep breaths, release your hands, step your feet together and bring yourself back to your chair.

Inhale your palms together at your heart.

And exhale release any tension in your neck and jaw.

Inhale – press your palms together at your heart. Exhale – stretch your arms out to the sides with flexed palms.

Inhale – bring your palms back into prayer position at your heart’s center. Exhale and stretch your arms out.

Inhale – return your hands to your heart. And exhale – reach the heel of your hands away from you.

Inhale your hands back to your center. And with your exhale, voice the sound om.

Do this repeatedly for one minute.

Namaste.

[End of recording]

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