The essence of health is inner balance. – Dr Andrew Weil

Inner balance through yoga for breast cancer

Hey amigos! I’m back after a brief hiatus. As you can see in this photo, early this spring I was fortunate enough to take an amazing trip to India, the birthplace of yoga. It was beautiful, inspiring, and transformative, and I will talk more about all of that in a future post. But I wanted to use this gorgeous pic from the Taj Mahal today. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about inner balance, adaptability, resilience, equanimity, and how important those qualities are in recovering from breast cancer, or any stressful event in life, for that matter. And of course, how yoga helps us cultivate those qualities!

Equanimity is sometimes defined as “evenness of mind, especially under stress; a state of psychological stability and composure which is undisturbed by experience or exposure to events/emotions/circumstance”. And I like to add physical stability and composure (in addition to the psychological) to the equation as well, because of the clear interdependence of our bodies and our minds. If one is disturbed, it is more difficult to maintain composure in the other, and vice versa. So if we can aim to maintain stability of both, each can help the other.

Breast cancer, and the treatment thereof, is an inherently stressful situation that puts a lot of strain on the body, mind, and spirit. Our bodies and minds are burdened with healing from surgical wounds, the toxicities of chemotherapy and radiation, the fear of recurrence, the anxiety around follow up testing, etc…. all creating an environment that isn’t the healthiest in our bodies: surging stress hormones, inflammation, etc. Of course, these things are necessary in the short term for us to heal, but we want our bodies to return to a healthy state of inner balance as soon as possible, because chronically elevated stress hormones and chronic inflammation are known to result in myriad other problems and diseases (including things like diabetes, heart disease, depression, obesity, and auto-immune disease to name just a few). Fortunately, our bodies are highly intelligent and have systems in place to bring us back to that state of balance after a stressful event. But sometimes the shock to our systems from a serious illness like breast cancer can be so significant that we have a difficult time finding our way back to balance. The good news is that there are simple things that we can do to help our bodies along, and restore that balance more efficiently. Physical yoga asana practice, pranayama breathing exercises, and meditative practices have all been shown in scientific studies to stimulate and tone the parasympathetic nervous system, which orchestrates that return of balance. Other studies show the same types of yogic practices reduce stress hormones and markers of chronic inflammation.

I believe yogic practices are important at any stage of life, and can do so much to help us achieve our healthiest state of inner balance. But the benefits are even more profound when we are struggling to recover from such a threat as breast cancer and breast cancer treatment, which can knock us off kilter and make it so difficult to regain stability. Sometimes it can even feel like we are trying to balance on one foot on top of a beach ball that is rolling down hill! Yoga shows us the way back to equilibrium by training us in equanimity, adaptability, flexibility (both physical and mental), and resilience.

Join me at Yoga with Leona to learn more about how yoga can help you attain and maintain the essence of health– inner balance.

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