In this culture, there is much ado about women’s breasts. However, all of the hullabaloo around seeing them as “sex parts” has had the unfortunate effect of creating an unnecessary taboo around this vital part of a woman’s anatomy. Many women feel uncomfortable talking about, much less touching, their own breasts. Most of the women I know over the age of thirty place value judgements on their breasts based on size, shape, symmetry, nipple size or firmness. We mistreat our breasts by confining them to bras which ultimately weaken their supportive tissues. Or, we decide to “free the tatas” and stop wearing bras overnight as opposed to a gentle progressive weaning, leaving our poor breasts to dangle without the crutches we have accustomed them to. The younger generations seemed to have fared better in terms of body image and bra-reliance, but not necessarily in awareness of breast health. Discussions of breast health with our doctors are normally limited to the yearly gynecological exam during which we are advised to perform self-examinations for cancer. These self-checks are crucial to detect disease, but talk about infusing touch with fear! What about nurturing and maintaining on-going breast wellness? Incorporating a short self-massage into your nightly bedtime ritual is a wonderful way to get your breast health practice in.
The breasts are lymphatic hubs, and as such, greatly benefit from self-massage. The lymphatic system is arguably one of the most important systems in the human body, helping us rid the body of toxins and the waste products of cellular processes. There are lymph nodes along the outer edges of the sternum, or breastbone, and along the underside and outer part of the breasts up to a large cluster of axillary nodes located in the armpit area. Lymphatic vessels are present throughout the breast tissue. Massaging these areas for lymphatic drainage and increased circulation can be extremely beneficial to the body, especially after a day spent restricting the vessels with a bra.
A gentle massage with your favorite oil can also be a nice way to feel grounded and connected to your body. My night-time ritual consists of putting a few drops of oil in my hands and then I massage the back of my neck up to my occiput, my heart center, each breast from sternum to axilla, and finally I give myself a short abdominal massage. You can further stimulate the senses by warming the oil (put the bottle in a cup of hot water), placing a hot towel over the breasts prior to your massage or by using an herb-infused oil.
The first step should always be this:
PRIOR TO ADDING OIL, reach across your body and place your hand on the side of your body just under your armpit, so your forefinger is right up against your armpit crease. Gently pump your hand so the palm side of your fingers presses into your body and releases – do this about 10 times.
A simple breast massage, two versions:
#1:Add the oil and gently stroke, with only the lightest pressure, from the bottom of the breastbone, following under the breast and around until you reach just under the armpit area. Next perform a similar stroke, this time from the middle of the breastbone, following the breast tissue under the nipple to just under the armpit area. You can continue in this fashion until you cover the entire breast and the area just under the collarbone, always moving from the middle of the chest in the direction of the armpit. (This is the one I learned, so I use this one – but there is not only one “right way”)
#2: Add the oil and gently stroke from the nipple, outward. The strokes on the outer part of the breast would follow from the nipple out to just under the armpit, and the strokes on the inner part would follow from the nipple to the middle of the breastbone.
Either way you are following the lymphatic pathways, aiming for the lymph nodes. If this doesn’t feel good to you, then access your inner knowing to come up with a flow that feels the most comfortable to your body. Your intuition is often your best guide when it comes to healing. You will increase your lymph flow and blood circulation to a certain extent, regardless of what you do. If every night feels like too much, try for once a week or at the very least once a month. Notice whether your body prefers a certain point in the lunar cycle (like the full moon) or in your menstrual cycle. The point is to connect with your body.
Many of us could benefit from a little loving kindness toward our breasts. Taking our healing (literally) into our hands can be very empowering. Breast self-massage can be a powerful part of this healing if incorporated into our daily wellness practice.