I would like to discuss breast cancer yoga and how it relates to lymphedema to do that, i would like to discuss the lymphatic system which is probably the least known bodily system among the general public
We all know the body is mainly water about 70-75%. About 20% of that is blood and 40% is lymph fluid. The lymphatic system is the body’s fundamental water reservoir. It bathes all cells, tissues and organs of the body, cleansing and nourishing them. It also is the transport and drainage system of the body.
Lymph is a whitish liquid which carries vital nutrients to the cells, it receives their metabolic waste and transports their waste to the heart. Besides water, the lymph fluid is also composed of protein, fatty acids, minerals, vitamins lymphocytes, dead cells, toxins, bacteria, virus, cancer cells and gases.
I think you have heard of lymph nodes. The lymph nodes actual filter, clean and break down toxins, bacteria and viruses as they produce antibodies known as lymphocytes. There are about 600-700 lymph nodes. A great number of these are around the neck and abdominal area.
Besides filtering and cleansing the lymph, the nodes produce lymphocytes to fight diseases.
Lymphedema After Breast Cancer | Beth Erhardt, OTR
When the lymphatic system is working optimally it flows like a river. However when the lymph nodes are removed or damaged, that same river slows down and may back up. This blockage can develop from infection, cancer, breast surgery, radiation or other cancer treatments. The lymph nodes become overloaded with buildup of debris, which further slows down the lymph.
The lymph protein content is unable to move and it hardens, generating calcification and necrosis over time.
The production of lymphocytes and immune response is impaired. The body cells and tissues are gradually poisoned by the toxic water they live in and they begin to age and deteriorate slowly.
This is the onset of lymphedema. Breast cancer lymphedema is an uncomfortable swelling of the soft tissues due to lymph fluid accumulation or lack of lymph drainage. Lymphedema may occur after breast cancer surgery because of the removal of lymph nodes which processed the lymph fluid. Once the nodes are removed, the lymphatic system is compromised.
Unlike the other circulatory systems (heart) which pumps the blood through the body, the lymph has to rely on breathing and exercise.
Most people do not realize that without proper breathing your body does not get enough oxygen to nourish and heal. As you age this lack of nourishment will cause disease and aging in the body. All functions of the body need oxygen to perform their tasks. For instance; digestion is a function that relies on the levels of oxygenation of the body to be accomplished.
Poor breathing translates into impaired digestion and poor assimilation. Over time that leads to disease
Breathing – proper breathing ( which is yogic breathing ) is done through the nostrils. The nose filters and warms the air. Lungs to diaphragm. The diaphragm is the muscle in charge of 75% of the inhalation. A baby breathes our natural breath. Only the belly moves. If we do not breathe deeply we deprive ourselves of oxygen. It is necessary for calmness, energy and a clear mind and to oxygenate the cells.
Breathing correctly; slow and deep inhaling through the nostrils and exhaling through the nostrils helps reduce stress hormones, like cortisol. It elevates gaba levels (gamma-amino-butyric). Gaba is an important chemical produced in the brain that counter acts anxiety and stress. Cortisol is a stress hormone that creates anxiety and stress. Gaba is a major inhibitory neurotransmitter chemical in the brain which is responsible for balancing mood levels.
Through brain imaging it has been shown that yoga practice increases gaba levels markedly. Studies and research from major hospitals; MD Anderson at the university of taxes (Dr. Lorenzo Cohen); Yale university; scientists, Ohio state university comprehensive cancer center, Stamford university have discovered that the practice of yoga boosts brain gaba levels.
Breast cancer restorative yoga has many parts to it; meditation, breathing, stretching and strengthening. Practicing breast cancer yoga will regenerate the soft tissue areas of the breast; boost the immune system and keep the lymphatic fluid moving throughout the channels rather than slowing down and creating a blockage.
The study of 191 breast cancer patients at m.d. Anderson cancer center linked yoga to improvements in self-reported quality of life, including measure of mood, pain and fatigue. “the benefits of yoga are above and beyond stretching,” said Lorenzo Cohen, a professor of oncology at MD Anderson center in Houston and lead author of the study published in the journal of clinical oncology. “these findings may improve outcomes in cancer survivors”.
To conduct the study, Cohen and his team randomly assigned 191 women with breast cancer who were undergoing radiation therapy into one of three groups. One group did yoga, another did simple stretching exercises, and a third group did neither. The participants in the yoga and stretching groups attended sessions for one hour, three days a week throughout the six weeks of their radiation therapy.
Participants were asked to report on their quality of life, including levels of fatigue and depression and their daily functioning. Electrocardiogram tests were administered at one, three and six months. Women who practiced yoga had the steepest decline in their cortisol levels across the day, indicating that yoga had the ability to help regulate this stress hormone.
After completing radiation treatment, only the women in the yoga and stretching groups reported a reduction in fatigue.
According to Cohen, ”the research from active therapy back to everyday life can be very stressful as patients no longer receive the same level of medical care and attention. Teaching patients a mind-body technique like yoga as a copying skill can make transition less difficult”. Dr. Cohen and his team are now conducting phase 111.
A “flow” yoga like restorative yoga for breast cancer, offers a wide variety of positive outcomes which include greater levels of strength, and a greater range of motion (rom) through the flexibility of these softening flows.
Breast cancer yoga can effectively aid in post surgical recovery and restore physical movement and strength back in the chest region and arms.
Remember before you start any exercise, talk to your doctor or specialist. They can advise you about what you should and shouldn’t do. If you wear a compression sleeve, you need to wear it when you are exercising.