We are truly honored and delighted to share this interview with Bobby Clennell, Senior Iyengar teacher and author and illustrator of Yoga for Breast Care: What Everyone Woman Needs to Know (enter the giveaway!). Below, In this first interview about her new book, Bobby explains her inspiration behind writing it and explains why all women should be especially interested in caring for their breasts, and ultimately our “planetary consciousness.”
You teach a Breast Health class at the Iyengar Institute in NY. What was your inspiration behind putting the information into a book?
For many years before his death (earlier this year), B.K.S. Iyengar helped women suffering from breast cancer. Teachers and students wrote to him for help, and I read, with great interest, some of the sequences he prescribed. Then ten or so years ago, I taught a workshop at the Iyengar Yoga Institute of Greater New York (IYIGNY) addressing breast health. I don’t know why I thought this subject important, other than I was aware that breasts and breast problems were a part of women’s physiology that had not been addressed much by the yoga community.
The weekly breast health class I teach at the IYIGNY was inspired by Guruji’s work. My publisher, Linda Cogozzo of Rodmell Press, asked if I would like to write Yoga for Breast Care and I jumped at the chance.
The book covers breast cancer care, but it also covers other issues related to breast health. Why is it important for women to pay closer attention to breast health and care in general?
Why should we not pay as much attention to our breasts as we do any other body part or any other aspect of our being? Breast cancer is only one of the issues surrounding women’s breasts. Issues that provoke anxiety in the lives of women range from varying degrees of cyclical and noncyclical discomfort; breast feeding (back in style in an era when women are least likely to be able to manage it); breast tenderness during pregnancy; fibrocystic breast condition; plus various cysts, lumps, and bumps.
Although the majority of women do not have breast cancer, its specter hangs over all of us. Women tend to avoid thinking about it because the subject is alarming: If we don’t look at it, then maybe we won’t get it. The very notion of a life-threatening disease tends to push us to extremes. We want to believe that big pharma will make us better, but suspecting that industrial medicine may betray us, we hope that some other indeterminate folk medicine will come to the rescue.
It’s time, I think, we got clear headed. In Yoga for Breast Care, I cite various studies and reports of the effectiveness of conventional medicine, as well as herbs, spices, and supplements. I offer my knowledge and experience of yoga healing as a modality for the main problems that beset our breasts.
Why is yoga so beneficial for breast health?
Those who want proof that yoga helps reduce the incidence of breast cancer are not going to find it in this book. There are, however, plenty of studies showing that yoga improves the lives of women who already have it. I am one of many yoga teachers who know from self-study and direct observation of students that yoga boosts the immune and endocrine systems.
For the most part, we are disconnected from our bodies, especially our breasts. Since our breasts are linked into our innermost feelings, it’s important that we don’t give ourselves away completely to the world—keep a little back for yourself. Get to know how your body works when it’s exhausted or over-stimulated, or how anxiety or anger affect your health. How do certain foods make you feel? We know that breast cancer is more likely to flourish when hormones are out of balance and the immune system is depleted. Certain combinations of asana (especially when they include the inversions) support these two systems.
What’s one thing you found most surprising while doing research for this book, or, alternatively, what do you think we as readers might find most surprising about yoga for breast care?
The most surprising thing I learned while researching for this book: how fast the medical community is moving toward breast cancer prevention.
What readers will find the most surprising about this book: our breasts represent the gentle, nurturing aspect of our planetary consciousness.
photo credit: Jake Clennell