Pilates for Breast Cancer Survivors

Pilates for Breast Cancer Survivors

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Instructor:   Maria Penager

Description: Pilates training can be an excellent way to achieve the postural re-education and muscle-balancing necessary to recover from the side effects of breast cancer treatment. Pilates can help alleviate pain from breast cancer operative procedures, restore joint mobility and tissue integrity, and help regain lost strength. Most importantly, Pilates can be a gateway for a true “Return to Life” for many women, as the title of Joseph Pilates’ popular book states.


Breast cancer treatment can leave the survivor stiff, weak, imbalanced and deconditioned. Pilates is an antidote. Routines incorporate breathing techniques similar to yoga, while exercises strengthen areas affected by radiation and surgery.


Where cancer treatment tears down, Pilates rebuilds. Radiation and surgery also create tightness throughout the chest region. Utilizing deep breathing and stretching of your upper body, Pilates loosens soft tissue. While treatment aims to take out cancer cells, it can also take a woman’s strength, specifically in the chest, shoulder and upper back. Pilates strengthens each of these areas. Survivors who have endured breast reconstruction involving the abdominals will no doubt benefit from Pilates’ focus on core musculature. Finally, surgery can leave a woman feeling lopsided; Pilates, on the other hand, promotes symmetry.


While Pilates has gained popularity only recently, it has been around since Joseph Pilates moved to New York City from Germany in 1926. A pacifist fleeing pressure to teach his exercise regimen to the German Army, he brought his novel exercise techniques to the United States. It was well received in his new studio, next door to the New York City Ballet. And why not? Alycea Ungaro, physical therapist, author and instructor, compares Pilates to an art form imploring daily practice.

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