I started yoga after my first diagnosis of breast cancer. One of my doctors recommended I try it. I was reluctant at first, but once I gave it a go, I was hooked.
When I began to feel the benefits of a regular yoga practice, it was undeniable how much yoga was helping me heal. I became more focused and calm in my mind. My body became more flexible, stronger and more balanced.
In 2013, I underwent DIEP Flap reconstruction surgery. As I explain in my book, Metamorphosis, DIEP Flap reconstruction is when, following mastectomy, your breast is rebuilt using tissue from your belly. My abdomen felt very tight and stretched following that procedure. It was incredibly uncomfortable for quite a while.
When I resumed my yoga practice a few months after this surgery, there were several poses that helped me to stretch out my abdominal area and normalize the feeling of tightness considerably.
Now, 7 years after surgery, I feel more normal again. The return to a new normal was gradual. There are definitely parts of my body that still feel numb and are left with little feeling. But, as I continue to practice yoga, I notice that subtle changes are bringing back sensation to these areas!
In my book, Metamorphosis, I demonstrate several yoga poses that are easy for anyone to perform in any space in your home. Following are some of these poses. If you are experiencing discomfort following surgery, I urge you to give them a try. They are not a magic bullet and will require time and practice for the desired result, but they do work and you will be so glad that you dove in and gave them a go.
Downward Facing Dog (In Sanskrit: Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Down Dog is one of the most known yoga poses. It is a basic pose that is incorporated into almost every type of yoga practice. There are so many benefits we glean from practicing Down Dog. As you can see in the photo, this pose strengthens the entire body. The upper body, arms, shoulders, abdomen and legs all strengthen as a result of regular practice of this pose.
You also get a good stretch in the back of the body, ankles, calves, hamstrings and spine. Down Dog calms the mind and stimulates blood circulation. It is also considered a “reset” assana in between poses where you are doing strong backbends and forward bends.
Upward Facing Dog (Urdvah Mukha Svanasana)
Up Dog is a great pose to help you work toward stretching your abdomen out after surgery. Make sure you check with your surgeon before resuming any exercise regimen. Practicing this pose will stretch the chest and lungs, shoulders and abdomen.
This pose is also one that helps you strengthen the spine, arms and wrists, stimulate the organs of the abdomen and assists with fatigue.
Not only will you feel better over time practicing Up Dog, you will improve your posture, by stretching the anterior spine and strengthening the posterior spine.
This pose is one that will help with sciatica pain. For your mind, Up Dog helps to relieve depression.
Cat/Cow Poses (In Sanskrit: Marjaryasana/Bitilasana)
Another set of poses that helped me tremendously after surgery to recover my abdominal area was Cat and Cow. These poses benefit the spine by gently warming it up and stretching it. Any benefit to the spine, by default is a benefit to the abdomen.
The abdominal muscles support the core. They allow movement and hold our organs in place by regulating pressure to the internal abdominal area. The core is made up of deep abdominal muscles, together with muscles in the back and spine. These muscles work together to help keep our bodies balanced and stable.
For more information about what you can expect from breast cancer surgery, check out Metamorphosis, my book. You can email me if you would like to purchase a copy. It is also available on Amazon in paperback or via Kindle.