Pilates for Breast Cancer: ‘Get Your Life Back Toolbox’ Part 1

I’m going to try to put out several articles this month for breast cancer and Pilates or really it’s just exercise for breast cancer. Some of it will be Pilates. As a master Pilates instructor it is difficult to separate my way of thinking from the Pilates philosophy but if we just stayed within the Pilates world that would be a little bit of a narrow focus; don’t you think?

Anway, if you are going through or have been through cancer treatment your doctor has partnered with you to save your life but it is up to you to fight to get your life back. It is my deepest desire that every single cancer patient would receive a prescription for physical therapy. A doctor is writing out the prescriptions anyway, what about one for physical therapy? It seems like such a simple thing to do and it would be so helpful. I’m sure if you asked your doctor would be more than happy to write you a prescription for physical therapy. So, pleeeeease, ask! It is difficult to keep moving when you don’t feel well but if you have a coach/instructor/physical therapist to work with you then you can have someone there to guide you. Someone there to help you through the rough days and to show you how to regain strength and vitality.

Picture 8If for some reason your physical therapy visits have been used up for the year try starting slow and easy with your doctor’s blessing and your doctor’s advice on what you should be doing in the way of exercise.

As difficult as it may be, when you can and when you are able, the best tool in your ‘get-my-life-back’ toolbox is movement. Start with walking: Walk, walk, walk and walk some more. Stay on flat ground if you haven’t walked in awhile. Going uphill can be really difficult and you may feel it the next day, especially if you have had abdominal or low back surgery. When we are in bed for days at a time our muscles severely atrophy. The good news is that they also rebound very quickly. The better shape you were in before being laid up the faster and more easily you’ll rebound. Keep that in mind. If you’ve had chemotherapy recently and it is going to be another 3 weeks or so before your next treatment you should have some pretty darned good days in there. Try to get out and get moving. Find something you love to do and go for it.

Outside of walking, what you’ll want to pay attention to first is returning range of motion to the site of surgery. The most common surgery site for breast cancer patients is, of course, the breast and possibly some surrounding breast tissue and lymph nodes. Surgery of these tissues affects your shoulder joint. Your range of motion may be greatly limited and returning mobility and strength to that area needs to be a top priority. To retain good health and to feel well, we all need to balance out our imbalances and surgery creates a big imbalance. Try this exercise to begin to return range of motion to the shoulder joint. The picture shows an ideal range of motion on this exercise. Don’t try to replicate that range of motion on your first (or even 10th) try. Stay within a pain-free range of motion.

The Exercise: Mermaid

How to get started: Sit as shown in the picture, with your weight shifted over your right hip. Rest your left arm on your left thigh and your right hand is brushing the floor next to your right hip.
The Movement: Arc your right arm overhead like you are trying to trace the shape of a rainbow. As you draw this arc stretch the right side of the ribcage toward the ceiling. Now return to your start position.

Breathing: Inhale, prepare. Exhale, draw the arm over. Inhale, pause with the arm overhead. Exhale, return to your start position.

GREAT JOB! Let me know if you have any questions. Karena

If you’d like to perform a gentle 25-minute program, see my DVD: Pilates for Healthy Bodies. The quote on the front cover? Here it is:

‘Pilates is not about obtaining the Hollywood Body. It is about feeling the best you can every single day.” –Mary Petersen, breast cancer survivor

Pilates for Breast Cancer: ‘Get Your Life Back Toolbox’ Part 1

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