The Yoga Room

This pesky lymphedema is really – pesky.

I saw a lymphedema specialist yesterday for more lymphedema “massage” (I sure wish that it felt as good as it sounds!).  Because I am a Curious George, I had another slew of questions for her, mainly about how (if) I can get rid of this.  And if I can get rid of it, then how. And if how then what I need to do to prevent a recurrence.

We talked about the stressors and triggers of lymphedema.  Some of which I already knew.  And others were new. These include strenuous activity, repetitious activity (including long hours of typing!), injuries (such as scratches or cuts) and bug bites (related to the inflammatory process caused by the toxins that the critters put in your body).

She said that it is important to be proactive to resolve and prevent a recurrence of lymphedema.  I can do this by watching for symptoms that lymphedema is lurking.  These include:

  • Generalized achiness
  • Generalized tingling
  • Heaviness of the arm
  • Fatigue of the arm

These were all news to me.  You know what?  Last week, before this started, I noticed these symptoms.  I didn’t, however, think anything about it because I didn’t realize that these symptoms were are precursor to lymphedema.  Surrrrrre wish I had known this! However, better late than never, I say!

My lymphedema specialist went on to tell me that it is possible to live with a lowered capacity of the lymphatic system your whole life. Further, the lymph system’s endurance needs to be built just as muscles are developed.  Slowly and steadily.

She who told me that yoga is an excellent, absolutely wonderful way to to offset the side effects of lymphedema (swelling, discomfort) and prevent recurrences.  The deep breathing inherent in yoga is very helpful for all of the lymph nodes in the abdomen.

So, of course, I decided to get myself to a yoga class – pronto!  A beginner class, that is.

I’ve never been a yogi. My mindset has always been, “Why on earth would I spend an hour (or more!) stretching and deep breathing when I could be hiking, running or playing tennis?”

Oh and let’s just say that my physical flexibility is subpar (I’m under exaggerating, here!). Catastrophically inflexible is a more apt description, I’d say.  This was corroborated by a one-time physical assessment after which the trainer told me: “I’ve never seen someone as inflexible as you…comparable to either a 14 year old adolescent boy or an 89 year-old woman. I can’t decide.”  I quickly reminded him that I am emotionally and mentally flexible (Silver Lining!).

The few times I have tried yoga were, Ahem, not the best experiences.  My mind could not (would not!) focus and wandered in a million different directions.  This wandering caused me to tip over and fall (yes, literally fall) on more than one occasion. In the middle of class. So, I went back to running!

Times have changed, though.  So, I found myself at a “Beginner” class…open minded, calm and highly motivated.

The yoga instructor began the class by asking (the group) if anyone has any health issues.  I laughed out loud.  How on earth…where on earth do I begin?  I mean, honestly.  After my nervous guffaw, I wondered:

  • Do I mention my lymphedema?
  • My post-surgical lady lumps?
  • My axillary web syndrome, also known as cording?
  • Do I tell this instructor (in front of the class, no less) that I didn’t stretch either before or after my three marathons?

After my mind spin, I was speechless.

I sensed that there could be a problem when the yoga instructor told the class that “Today we are going to work on ‘Inversions.'”…and didn’t explain what Inversions are.  Vey iz mir.  Here we go again!

Apparently he saw the look of profound confusion on my face and said, “This means that we will stand on our heads.  But that will be later in the class.”  Really?  I thought this was a F-bomb beginner class.


Throughout this Beginner Class, it seemed as if he came over to correct every “pose” (that is a very generous description of my repugnant form).  On more than one occasion, I thought I saw (I KNOW I saw!) an eye roll.  I wanted to say, Dude, you have no idea.  I have been called a ‘train wreck’ on more occasions than I can count in the last 6 months.

We ended the class with a pose called “Happy Baby.”  I prefer to call this “Screaming Baby” because screaming is all I could think about doing.  …and of course, I tipped over when the instructor said to “gently roll back and forth on your sacrum.”  Really? REALLY?

The Silver Lining here is that my mental state HAS changed.  I WILL go back to yoga.  I KNOW it will take an extraordinary amount of mental and physical willpower to stick with it.  The good news is that I have willpower in spades.

Yoga teaches us to cure what need not be endured and endure what cannot be cured.

~B.K.S. Iyengar

Leave a comment


  1. Christy says

    For the fashion conscious with lymphadema check out this website!

    Hollye, You haven't mentioned it so I am posting it here in case you have not yet come across it.
    I have not checked out the compression factors, a friend just told me about it when showing me her new sleeves for mother's day! SL

  2. Julia Rodgers says

    Hollye, I'll go to therapeutic yoga with you! I'm a loser when it comes to yoga and I'm equally inflexible! We can keep each other motivated because I would rather be hiking or playing tennis as well!

  3. Michele Cuttler says

    Hollye – I would love to introduce you to my ALL TIME favorite yoga teacher. Her name is Cheri Clampett and she teaches here in Santa Barbara. I think her website is, or you can just google her to find out her schedule. She teaches a "yoga for healing" class at the SB Yoga Center, and also classes at the SB Cancer Center. She is beyond amazing, a true healer, and likely won't have you doing an wacky inversions! Her guided meditations are the BEST! She will make you fall in love with yoga, especially all the wonderful restorative aspects of it. xoxo

  4. Joanie says

    Hollye, yoga is a huge SL, but there are many yoga paths. Some are more therapeutic and restorative. Check out Gary Kraftsow and Viniyoga or Integrative Yoga Therapy. These pathways emphasize the individual journey and work to adapt poses to health issues rather than emphasise the "correctness" of the pose. Your yoga path should bring you to a state of balance, peace, and well being…not stress from the challenge of poses.
    Blessings on your path…you continue to inspire me every day.

  5. Patty Pian says

    YIKES!!!! You are right-headstands are NOT for beginners….I have been practicing yoga for 14 years and I do not do headstands often…there are many poses you need to work up to as to prevent injury! Yoga is best when it is tailored to what your body needs at any given time-many times group classes can't really individualize to suit the entire group. Try to find a good teacher to do some private classes to begin with-Yoga should feel WONDERFUL for YOUR body and mind! We are going to a yoga retreat with Mark Whitwell in June at Esalen-I would recommend his video/book-his teachings are authentic and realistic-(no putting your foot up around your head!!)
    Good Luck!

  6. Kim says

    You have willpower and such a will to live your best life! You're spirit during the toughest of times is absolutely amazing! You're doing it! You're great! Ya, I can tell you're a marathoner too. Cancer is the marathon of diseases and you're winning!