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Yoga & metastatic breast cancer

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Many women living with metastatic, or stage IV, breast cancer practice yoga. Gentle and restorative yoga may improve concentration and fatigue, lessen anxiety and pain, and control stress. A mental yoga practice can help manage feelings of uncertainty as you wait for test results. It can also help you deal with the daily stresses of living with metastatic disease.

Keep in mind some special precautions as you pursue a yoga practice:

  • Your providers may advise against doing some common yoga poses, such as:
    • twists
    • forward-bending stretches
    • backbends
    • balance poses
    • inversions, poses that put your head lower than your heart
  • If you have bone metastasis, your bones may fracture more easily.
  • With liver metastasis, avoid poses that pull or cause tension on the abdomen, a feeling common to many yoga poses.
  • Lung metastasis sometimes interferes with breathing. Some pranayama practices include very deep breaths or quickened breathing, or have you take a partial breath and then pause, holding the breath. During pranayama, you may lie on the floor with a blanket or pillow under the upper body to open the chest. Review such practices with your providers first.
  • Pay attention to your body. Avoid breathing practices that cause pain, dizziness, lightheadedness, or shortness of breath. Change your position if lying flat causes trouble breathing or pain.

Your providers may suggest ways to modify poses or advise you to avoid group yoga classes or some yoga styles. Be specific about the practice of interest to you, including room temperature, poses (photos help) and body positions during meditations.

There is no standard, one-size-fits-all advice—only your providers can confirm whether a practice is safe for you.

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Reviewed and updated: October 9, 2018

Reviewed by: Mary Pullig-Schatz MD

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Living Beyond Breast Cancer is a national nonprofit organization that seeks to create a world that understands there is more than one way to have breast cancer. To fulfill its mission of providing trusted information and a community of support to those impacted by the disease, Living Beyond Breast Cancer offers on-demand emotional, practical, and evidence-based content. For over 30 years, the organization has remained committed to creating a culture of acceptance — where sharing the diversity of the lived experience of breast cancer fosters self-advocacy and hope. For more information, learn more about our programs and services.

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