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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.

By Joanna Colwell

Choose Health
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

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Reader Comments

Janet Hartman

Sandy, your words of wisdom have inspired me to search for any and all means to keep me cancer free. I have googled lots of words since my breast cancer scare, and breast thermography sounds like it won't hurt my poor breast! I'm checking it out. Thanks


I have gotten into the habit of researching alternative care since my breast cancer scare earlier this year, during which I discovered a diagnostic called Thermography that can detect possible breast cancer almost a decade before it even becomes a tumor. Furthermore it does this safely and without squishing your breasts, instead creating a heat map of the blood flow in your breasts. Google "breast thermography" and read about it. It's been FDA approved since the 70's! However it's not backed up by "big pharma" and has not made the mainstream like mammography.

We have to be educated consumers of healthcare and of caring for our bodies. We educate ourselves when we shop around for a car, we should do the same when it comes to caring for our bodies. We cannot afford to blindly and unquestioningly (is that a word?) follow any doctor's advice, or make decisions about our bodies simply based on what everyone else is doing - it can, for some, cost us our health, or sometimes even our lives.

Sarah Howe

Thank you for the important information on the effects of yoga to the body and mind in relation to breast health. As a yoga teacher I will share these statistics with my students and as an athlete, while I attempt the 3 Day Walk for breast cancer in Boston, my thoughts will be with all those that have been touched by this disease.

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