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Yoga Poses for Cancer Survivors

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A cancer diagnosis and treatment can put stress on a person's mind and body. Yoga may benefit survivors and help them heal and learn to cope. Here is a list of a few poses and stretches and how they may benefit patients.

group doing shoulder and chest stretches

Shoulder and Chest Stretch

Shoulder stretches are great for restoring lost movement to the whole upper body. They are also good for breaking up scar tissue that may have developed due to injury or surgery.


  1. Sit in a cross-legged position, or in any comfortably erect position.
  2. With the hands sufficiently far apart hold onto a yoga strap.
  3. With the torso upright try to make as large a circle as possible with your hands as they go up and over.

Keep the torso upright and try not to lean forward or back when lifting and lowering the arms. If you have any shoulder issues, then only raise the strap as high as you can until you feel a good stretch.

  1. Inhale and lift the arms up above the head.
  2. Exhale and reach back and down while keeping the arms straight. You may have to make your hands wider apart to lower the arms without bending them.
  3. Inhale and bring the arms overhead.
  4. Exhale lower down in front to start position.

Repeat above five times. Then hold the stretch when the arms are reaching back behind you or when the arms are above the head. Keep tension in the strap.

Lady doing the Wide-Legged Forward Fold and Twist

Wide-Legged Forward Fold and Twist

Wide-Legged Forward Fold and Twist stretches the shoulders, chest and inner thighs.


Step both feet wider than the shoulders and keep the legs straight with the outer edges of the feet parallel to one another. Angle the big toes inward slightly. Fold forward at the hip-creases with the spine lengthened. Tilt the entire pelvis forward. Keep the knees soft (do not lock them). Place the left hand directly under the face to the ground, or onto a block(s) if the hamstrings are tight.

  1. Inhale as you press into the block or on the ground with the left hand and lift the right arm out to the side and up as high as it will go.
  2. Exhale while lowering the arm and repeat on the other side of the body, placing the right hand where the left hand was. Repeat five times alternating sides, then hold each side for five breaths.
lady doing Seated Twist with Gentle Hip Opener

Seated Twist with Gentle Hip Opener

Seated twists help detoxify and nourish the body. They gently squeeze and massage the internal organs, which has a cleansing effect. They help to nourish the body by bringing fresh blood and nutrients to the muscles and organs.


Extend both legs in front of you. Bend the right knee and place the sole of the right foot to the inner left thigh, and heel toward the groin. Keep your shoulders above the hips the whole time.

  1. Inhale and lift the rib cage to lengthen the spine. Place your left hand on the right knee and left hand behind you
  2. Exhale while twisting to the right. Make sure the left sit bone stays on the ground as you twist. Press the left hand gently into the right knee to assist the twist, and move from the navel first, then the chest, shoulders, and head turning to the right. Try to keep the shoulders above the hips and don’t lean back into the right hand. Hold for five breaths.
  3. Exhale and come out of the twist by moving from the navel first, then the chest, shoulders, and head back to center. Repeat on the other side.


If you are unable to lengthen your spine and sit tall, sit on a folded blanket or some other prop to bring you higher up and support the bent knee.

Ochsner offers Healing Yoga for Survivors at the Gayle and Tom Benson Cancer Center and on the North Shore. For more information, visit the Cancer Care Calendar.

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