Re-Examining Breast Health
Are you doing everything you can to prevent breast cancer? Yoga can reduce your risk by stimulating lymph flow, strengthening the endocrine and immune systems, and improving your attitude toward your body.
While yoga asanas can be an important part of your breast health regime, it's important to remember that yoga doesn't operate on a magic bullet, "take three poses and call me in the morning" basis. Yoga encourages a holistic approach to life, so it's sensible to incorporate other preventative measures into your breast health regime. You may want to limit your exposure to estrogen-mimicking chemicals, including those in many pesticides: Buying and eating organic food (especially meat and dairy products, if you include these in your diet) and drinking filtered water can be powerful steps toward a more holistic approach to wellness.
More studies will be needed before science can firmly weigh in on the value of yoga and other holistic strategies for preventing breast cancer. But even though research so far has provided far more answers about early detection of breast cancer than about actual prevention, many people believe enough evidence already exists to encourage us to adopt such measures. At the same time, we need to keep in mind that there's a difference between advocating personal responsibility and ascribing blame. Saying that "eating a plant-based diet may help to prevent cancer" is a very different statement than saying "She developed cancer because she ate too much meat." For one thing, there's just not enough evidence to indicate the latter claim. Perhaps even more important, blame—and that includes blaming yourself—can only add to stress and interfere with healing.
It would be wonderful if we could be assured that by practicing yoga and otherwise following a breast-healthy lifestyle, we will never develop breast cancer. But we know all too well that many otherwise strong, healthy women have been diagnosed with this disease. Young, incredibly fit athletes have developed breast cancer, as have vegetarian yoginis.
Obviously, the steps suggested in this article don't provide you with an ironclad guarantee of health. But such a program may significantly increase your odds of remaining free of breast cancer, and it will certainly provide you with all the general health benefits of practicing yoga while it deepens your awareness of your body and of the connections between your personal health and the health of the world around you.
Joanna Colwell lives in Middlebury, Vermont, and teaches Iyengar-style yoga and breast health workshops around the U.S. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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