Yoga and Breast Health
The breasts can suffer from poor circulation caused in part by bad posture, such as shoulders that are hunched and a spine that stoops. On an energetic and emotional level, in this stance we shrink our breasts and our lungs, our emotions and our hearts. The breasts also suffer from lack of exercise. According to recent studies, regular exercise can substantially lower the risk of breast disease. Yoga postures combine exercise with alignment. They improve our posture. They also get the body and the circulation moving. Yoga can help blood and lymph flow more efficiently around the chest and indeed around the entire body. It also helps the immune and endocrine systems function more efficiently and encourages restful sleep, which is when the body goes into repair mode.
Researchers are now looking at yoga to see if it can relieve the distress associated with cancer treatment. Three studies published in 2009 and 2011 analyzed yoga's effect on anxiety, mood states, and self-esteem in breast cancer patients. Each found significantly increased self-esteem as well as decreased anxiety’, depression, and stress in the yoga group compared to the control group. A 2010 study determined that a yoga program significantly improved symptoms of fatigue and increased vigor immediately after treatment for breast cancer and in the ensuing three months. Another survey found that gentle yoga, breathing exercises, and meditation significantly improved menopausal symptoms in breast cancer survivors, including hot flashes, joint pain, fatigue, and sleep disturbance. A 2014 study found that breast cancer survivors who took a yoga class that included gentle stretching and strength-building exercises as well as breathing techniques reported less fatigue and also had lower levels of cytokines in their blood, which are markers of inflammation, compared with breast cancer survivors who did not do yoga. The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.
A paper presented to the 2012 American Society’ of Clinical Oncology reported that breast cancer patients on hormone therapy who took part in the University’ of Rochester YOCAS program (Yoga for Cancer Survivors) experienced significantly reduced general pain, muscle aches, and physical discomfort. Previous to that, the largest study of its kind administered the YOCAS program to 410 cancer survivors, primarily women who had breast cancer. The four-week program consists of yoga asana, including restorative poses, pranayama, and meditation. The yoga group reported greatly improved quality’ of sleep, less fatigue, and better overall quality’ of life compared to the control group, who had increased fatigue, reduced sleep quality’, and a poorer quality’ of life.
Broadly speaking, yoga poses are divided into categories according to the position the body assumes: standing, sitting, twisting, inverting, bending forward or backward, and lying down. Each of these categories of posture has a different effect on the body and the mind.
Standing Poses - The standing poses give you poise and elegance and make you stronger. They provide a strong framework from which to explore the other poses safely. Specific to breast health, they create space in the torso and prevent fluid from accumulating in and around the breasts. They directly contract and stretch the muscles of the chest, arms, and shoulders, which massages the nearby lymph nodes and encourages lymph flow through the area. Cow Face Pose stretches the armpit and the outside edges of the breasts. Downward-Facing Dog Pose stretches the chest. Only a few are included in this book, but all the standing poses have a positive effect on the circulation of lymph fluid, which helps keep the breasts health}’. Jumping in and out of a standing pose causes the breasts to move, stimulates lymph flow, and promotes lymphatic drainage, so there is less opportunity for congestion to occur.
The hands, organs of action linked to the heart chakra, influence the chest, heart, breasts, and lung area. Stiff, tense hands cause tension in the chest area, and can even adversely affect your emotions. Upward Bound-Hands Pose promotes supple fingers and hands and helps transmit a free flow7 of energy back along the arms to the heart and breasts.
Sitting Poses - These poses are important for women because they strengthen the spine, and a strong spine gives support to the breasts. They tone and strengthen the internal reproductive organs. Some twists, like Seated Chair Twist, also boost the functioning of other abdominal organs, including the liver.
The liver converts potentially toxic forms of estrogen - either from the environment or created within the body - into safer forms of estrogen. (Excess and repeated upswings in estrogen levels, wiiich take place every menstrual cycle, have been cited as being a possible contributing cause of breast cancer.) But the liver’s ability’ to eliminate estrogen can be compromised if it is overloaded with toxins such as alcohol or chemicals.
Since estrogen is so significant in the development of breast cancer and other hormone-sensitive cancers, it is vitally important to ensure the health of the liver. A blockage in the natural flow of liver energy can also cause headaches, migraines, digestive problems, and sexual problems.
The twists aid detoxification by squeezing and twisting the abdominal area—like wiinging out a wet towel. This removes static blood and lymphatic fluid from the area and releases toxins from the bloodstream. When the twisting action is released, the musculature relaxes again; fresh blood flow’s into the area, and the body is flooded with nutrients.
Back Bends - In Chinese medicine, breast disease is considered a disease of melancholy. An acupuncturist would treat a depressed patient or one who complains of heaviness in the chest by “raising the chi.” Yogic wisdom phrases this in terms of chakras: When the heart chakra, the seat of the soul, wiiich is situated between the breasts, is sinking, a yoga teacher wrould encourage the student to lift and “open” her chest.
Anxiety’ and depression can weaken immunity’, so it’s important not to allow’ depression to take hold. Back bends elevate mood. They direct the mind outward, lift the chest, and lift the spirit.
Forward Bends - The forward bends are calming and cooling. They bring relief from anxiety, lower blood pressure, and can help a distracted mind unwind and focus. Most important, these poses allow us to draw inward and find inside ourselves the nourishment we may have been seeking from others. Practicing a seated forward bend (with the head supported) brings about a chemical change in the brain. It’s wonderful to discover that peace and contentment were there all the time, inside us, waiting for the key—our surrender and gentle nasal exhalations—to help us re-experience our natural self-confidence.
Inversions - The inverted poses increase energy while engendering equanimity’ and a sense of well-being. Many studies point to hormonal imbalance as one of the main contributors to breast disease. A yoga practice that includes inversions is an extremely effective defense against diseases caused by metabolic disturbances. I have seen firsthand the healing effects of inversions, and I believe they are yoga’s most valuable offering to women. They keep our glandular system healthy and are crucial in maintaining the health of the breasts. Inversions also strengthen and support the immune system.
The inverted poses release the breasts from the downward pull of gravity, stimulate circulation and the lymph system, and build muscle tone. Inversions help us feel stable and secure and give us vitality and self-confidence.
Reclining Poses - Supine poses are restorative. They rest the body, quiet the mind, and calm the nerves. Reclining Bound-Angle Pose, Reclining Easy Pose, Supported Bridge Pose, and Relaxation Pose allow- the breast tissue to move and stretch laterally away from the center of the breast bone, which has a cooling effect on inflamed tissue. Relaxation Pose, the most restorative of the reclining poses, releases tension from all areas of the bod}’, including the internal organs and the mind.
Pranavama - Prana is the energy upon which all of life is based. It pervades the entire universe and all of nature—our bodies included. It is our inner powrer. It flowrs through subtle channels in the body Qiadis) like a constantly moving river of energy. But if these channels become blocked or overstimulated, we get stressed. Toxins are produced and disease settles in.
Pranavama is healing at the most fundamental level. By manipulating the breath, wre tap into pranic energy, harnessing it and channeling it for greater health, strength, and vitality. In addition, pranavama is one of the best tools we have for calming the mind.
Most women experience breast discomfort or other breast changes at some point in their lives. Although it is a common experience, that does not make this aspect of our health any less worrisome. Most often breast pain is a harmless part of puberty or pregnancy, or it is related to the menstrual cycle. That said, there are several other possible causes for breast pain, and we will take a look at them in this section. Breast pain, or mastalgia, is divided into two types: cyclic and noncyclic.
About two-thirds of women with breast pain have cyclic mastalgia. It occurs in the five to ten days preceding menstruation, when swelling, pain, or tenderness, ranging from barely noticeable to extremely uncomfortable, is experienced in the breasts. Cyclic mastalgia usually resolves by the time the period begins, although it may happen to varying degrees throughout the cycle. Some women suffer from this condition almost all the time, except for a few days following the end of menstruation. Cyclic mastalgia is thought to be caused by an imbalance of fatty’ acids within the cells, winch affect the sensitivity of breast tissue to the circulating hormones responsible for the menstrual cycle.
Emotional factors can also influence cyclic breast pain; hormone changes that occur during times of stress can exacerbate this condition. Cyclic mastalgia affects women of all ages but is more prevalent during menopause. Postmenopausal women wiio take hormone replacement therapy may have similar symptoms. Usually experienced in both breasts, cyclic breast pain is often described as dull, aching, heavy, or sore, and it can extend to the armpit and down the arm. If breast pain or tenderness comes with lumpiness, cysts, or areas of thickness, it is called fibrocystic breast condition. When only one breast is painful cyclically, there could be something in that breast that is responding to hormonal imbalance.
The Histoiy of Yoga
By means of Yoga, the absolute beyond mind and emotions is perceived, Malianirvana Tantra
In order to study the histoiy of Yoga, we must view the histoiy of universe. Some souls become curious about a life independent from The Absolute Being and come from the spiritual universe to material universe. Souls must incarnate so as to be able to realize their objectives in the material universe. While the incarnated soul pursues an imaginary freedom, it imitates God, changes many bodies and experiences adventures. Finally, after having repeatedly experienced temporary material happiness and agonies, it becomes bored with life in the material universe. Thus, one day it awakens and begins to long for its true spiritual nature, wants to return to the spiritual universe and exerts effort to actualize this aim. The Yoga science and practice is a return ticket for the soul to pass from the material universe to the spiritual universe.
For this reason, when the material universe was manifested, first of all, the science of Yoga was given to the souls which were there. This is the most important science because the souls can escape from the material world by means of this science and return to the spiritual universe. The material universe is manifested and returned to unmanifested state in eternal cycles. When the material universe is manifested again, those souls which haven't been able to return to the spiritual universe incarnate and continue their lives in the material dimension. The Original Yoga System exists so that souls can escape from these eternal cycles.