Yoga for breast cancer

My path until here, from here on…

Weaving the strings of our lives together into a coherent pattern, our unique tissue, might be the best objective we can strive for in this life.
I am a Gemini.  I have a lot of interests.  At times, it seemed as if they might pull me to pieces.  Yoga.  Guitar.  Nutrition. Travel. Family life. Tattoos.  Bodywork.  Sexuality.  Languages. Crochet. Technology. Parties. Books. Clothes. Shall I continue to list?
In the language of yoga, tapas is the burning up of impurities.  In practical terms, it is the shedding of that which distracts us from the path.  This can include things like divesting oneself of excessive possessions, losing excess body weight, severing ties with people who do us harm, and shedding activities that only serve to distract.  Tapas comes along quite naturally, when practice is continuous and conscientious.
I have written of tapas before in this blog.  It is something that has occupied my mind for some time.  I was quite certain that some of my, uh, stuff, needed to be bidden goodbye.  But, when the process is motivated by rajas – the energetic guna, the one that I tend to have in excess – the shedding is likely to be excessive, and possibly lead later to regret (a swing into the opposite of rajas, tamas, the heavy guna).  When the process of tapas is sattvicsattva being the balanced, calm guna – then it is filled with gratitude, awe, thankfulness and joy.  (btw:  the gunas are the three qualities of matter, as postulated in the yoga theory that I have studied.  rajas-tamas-sattva are found in matter and mind, only pure spirit is nirguna, without these qualities.  It is a bit hard to explain in few words.  If you don’t get it right now, don’t worry, there is plenty of time to learn.)
I think, I believe, that  I have reached the point in which the strands of my various interests begin to weave together to form a special tissue.

Yoga therapy for breast cancer rehabilitation.

I began working in breast cancer rehab in 2005.  I had qualified in Manual Lymphatic Drainage and, with some trepidation, began treating oedema.  Then, later, lymphoedema.  It was scary.  The first scars, the first radiation burns, the first time a patient developed metastasis, the first patient to die.  It was a path that demanded a lot of me both as a therapist and as a person.  To stand in front on one person after another and reflect back their fears, doubts, triumphs, to stop getting angry at intransigence and inability to change, to understand that an experience of facing death does not automatically change a person, that the fear of changing habits that are ingrained is stronger than the fear of dying.
I feel that MLD therapists have a different relationship to our patients than do oncologists or radiologists or plastic surgeons.  We all share a therapeutic role, but the fact that MLD is usually applied outside of the hospital setting and the therapy lasts at least an hour and may be ongoing for years means that we develop a true relationship with our patients.  This can be taxing, especially when they relapse, or die.  But it is also rewarding in the sense that friendship is always rewarding.  People are interesting, their stories are interesting.  I have learned more about modern European history by listening to my patients than I ever could have studying in University.
The ongoing tête-a-tête with death stimulates a need for answers, for ways to reflect back to these women some ideas about what the bloody hell is going on here, anyway???  I was already contemplating all this, and from a young age.  Death and dying fascinate me in the way that only a person with a huge zest for life can be interested in them.  Without fear.   I am a Gemini.  I like opposites.  I have fit three lifetimes into my first 42 years. I can’t wait to see what the next 80 years bring!
Yoga is the path I chose in my quest to find the answers.  I has helped me enormously.
And so, I chose to teach yoga to my breast cancer patients.  Simple as that.
So, from now on, instead of blogging about this and that, I choose to blog about yoga therapy for breast cancer rehabilitation.  Sounds pretty good, eh?
I ought to get organising my categories then, yes?  If you have any suggestions for a blogroll, would you please be so kind as to comment?  Many thanks and a big, fat om.

Angel in a Circle
Angel in a Circle

Well woman massage

I have spent the past 11 years of my life as a professional massage therapist, and 8 of those dedicating myself to the gentle art of Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD).  MLD is a very gentle and highly specific massage technique that is used in cancer rehabilitation.  Many who opt for allopathic cancer treatments such as radiotherapy and surgery are left with impaired lymphatic drainage in the affected area.  This manifests as swelling known as lymphedema (sometimes lymphoedema).
In massage training, touching of the breast is generally verboten.  In MLD it is an integral part of the treatment, especially in women who have had lumpectomies, mastectomies, radiotherapy, reconstruction (implant or TRAM).  I consider myself an expert in the treatment of breast conditions.
Drawing from my massage training, I have always emphasized the importance of the abdominal massage.  Deep abdominal massage is used in many healing modalities including, but not limited to, Tui-Na, Mayan massage, modern Osteopathy, Ayurvedic massage,  and Swedish massage.  MLD includes very important abdominal work, but the touch is light, as it is in all aspects of the technique.
In hatha yoga, we learn and teach techniques to release the diaphragm muscle, deepen the breath and connect with the muscles of the pelvic floor.
I propose to you a Well Woman Massage: 

  • Hatha yoga to stretch the body and deepen the breath, connecting with the perineum and diaphragm.  
  • Deep abdominal massage, back massage (lest we forget that the abdominal obliques and the hip flexors originate in the spine)
  • MLD for abdomen and breast. 

Women have special physical needs not seen in men – hormones and hot flashes and pregnancy and childbirth and breastfeeding and, and, and…If you feel it’s time to care for yourself the way you’ve always wanted to, please feel free to drop me a line.  Treatments available in Altea, Benidorm and Teulada.  For treatments booked in April 2013, I offer a 5% discount on the normal price of €60.  This is a two-hour program.

Manual Lymphatic Drainage

When I’m not studying yoga, or practicing yoga, or writing about yoga (who ever said Geminis flit from one thing to another?), I earn my living as a massage therapist.  I am really and truly grateful to my profession – I am one of the lucky few to do a job I truly love, and which brings more joy to the world.  A little less pain brings a few more smiles and smiles are always contagious!
I work a lot with the Vodder method of Manual Lymphatic Drainage.  MLD is a therapy that is taught and researched mainly in Germany and Austria.  Every two years I renew my license, but other than those 4 training days, I have no contact with other MLD therapists.  The big problem is that there are very few of us.  In Spain, MLD is taught to all physiotherapists, and they will all say that they know the technique.  With all due respect and humility, I beg to differ.  I have seen too many cases of automated compression sleeves, heavy manual pressure, inadequate compression bandaging and simple bad advice to feel confident in the training of most physios in my neck of the woods.  The thing is, MLD is a highly specialised therapy.  Even many people trained correctly can’t master the technique.  It is very subtle, repetitive and quiet.  But, done correctly, MLD works like nothing else for edemas, be they lymphatic or venous in origin.
So, today, I treated a German lady’s legs.  She receives weekly MLD sessions in Germany because of diagnosed medical problems.  Germany is where it’s at with respect to MLD, and the therapists there are highly skilled and highly competent.  And after my treatment, the lady practically jumped off the bed, smiling from ear to ear, hugged me and said that my drainage was very very good!  Can I tell you how proud and happy that made me feel?  YAY!!!!