It is not unusual for a woman to develop lymphedema after a mastectomy. Lymphedema is a sometimes-painful swelling in the soft tissues. This can be due to the removal of lymph nodes, scar tissue, strictures, and other factors.
Manual lymph drainage massage is the usual recommended technique to treat this swelling. It may be surprising to know that another therapy that benefits lymphedema is yoga, especially restorative yoga. When the lymphatic system is at its optimum, it is like a free flowing river, running without obstacles. However, when the lymph nodes are removed or damaged, that same river meets obstacles and begins to slow down and this creates a pooling of fluids. This build up in the tissues can cause swelling and inflammation and reduce oxygen in the lymphatic tissues. The white blood cells, or immune soldiers of the body, can be impaired in their function in this situation. This may increase the risk of infection and create a possible permanent disability. Edema is often found in the arms and legs, but can be found in other parts of the body.
Knowing how important it is to keep this fluid running like a free flowing river, we need to foster relaxation and gentle movements that encourage its increased flow. This is especially important after breast surgery or removal of nodes, when it is paramount to undertake new activities to increase impaired lymphatic function.
The need to develop a deeper state of relaxation to counter the mental and physical stress of illness and its treatment is critically important to our health and well-being.
Practicing yoga, especially Restorative Yoga which targets the pectoral area, keeps the fluid moving through the body rather than slowing down and creating a back up. This benefits the breasts by promoting drainage and healing and creating a sense of safety when expanding the chest.
Practicing Restorative Yoga daily will undo the harmful effects of too much sitting or inactivity. Starting yoga practice with a knowledgeable Restorative Yoga teacher is as important as wearing a bandage or support garment.
An important thing to understand in your practice of Restorative Yoga is that you must to slow down enough to listen to what your body is telling you. Any time you overwork your muscles or strain your healing tissues, you run the risk of fluid build up.
Let this be the yoga practice of self-understanding.
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About Dawn Bradford Lange: Co-founder of Breast Cancer Yoga. Dawn is making a difference with Breast Cancer Yoga therapeutic products designed to support you emotionally and physically during breast cancer . We want to give you the attention and personal service you need so please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions.