While diet, exercise, and regular screenings are essential to maintaining great breast health, breast massage is also essential to have healthy and happy breasts. Breast massages are not just about maintaining good breast health, but they feel great too! Chit.Chaat.Chai talked with notable author, teacher, Ayurveda practitioner, and retired midwife, Terra Rafael, to discuss the health benefits and best practices for giving yourself the most effective breast massage.
Q & A with Terra Rafael
Why should breast massage be a part of a woman’s healthcare ritual?
In many parts of the world, breast massage is a routine part of massages. Breast massage is a simple way to improve your health. It stimulates circulation and lymph drainage in the chest which improves detoxing which helps prevent breast disease. This is especially important if you wear a bra. Cyclical breast tenderness can be reduced by massaging them before the tenderness usually happens.
How does massage help flush out toxins?
The breast has many lymph nodes and channels within the fatty and glandular tissue. The primary function of the lymphatic system is to transport lymph, a fluid containing infection-fighting and cleansing white blood cells throughout the body. The lymph system, unlike blood circulation, no pump to move the lymph. Usually, this is moved by either muscular squeezing of the lymph or movement of it by massage. The lymph system is a system for detoxification and immunity. Since the breasts don’t have muscles covering them, the lymph needs a massage to help it do its cleansing job.
Is there a particular way or time we should massage the breasts?
While there is no “wrong” way to massage them, there are many different techniques available. It’s more important to do the massage rather than what type. For some busy women, massaging in the shower just with water is the way they can be sure to do it. Other women do it before showering with oil.
One technique I often recommend is to massage from the nipple in a circular spiral outward, ending with some massage in the armpit, where many lymph glands feed into.
How much time and how often should we practice this ritual?
There’s no need to spend much time unless that’s what pleases you. Just five to ten minutes can be sufficient. A little breast massage is better than none at all! It can be done daily or once a week.
Is there a time when we should not massage our breasts?
Breast Massage should be pleasurable, so if there is discomfort, wait for a time when it is comfortable. It is contraindicated if there is suspected or confirmed breast cancer to avoid spreading through the lymph. (Remember though, that it is a GREAT preventative of breast disease.) Post surgery would be another time to wait until ok’d by the surgeon to allow proper healing.
Do we need oil for breast massage? If so, what kind?
Using oil for breast massage is generally recommended. Women who to Ayurvedic self-massage can just add it to their routine. Warm Sesame oil is a basic recommendation. One formula for those with fibrocystic breasts is a mix of equal parts sesame, castor oil, and coconut oil. You can choose to add an optional essential oil: rose, clary sage, geranium, lemongrass, fennel, cypress, or vetiver.
Are there any rituals we should integrate pre or post breast massage?
Oftentimes women have found it hard to love their own bodies and breasts. Ayurveda teaches that our emotions have a strong connection to health, and is especially true of the female organs. By including a loving intention during the breast massage, this practice works for healthy emotions as well as a healthy body. A friendship with the breasts means we love them, even if they aren’t exactly the way we would like them to be.
Some women, especially those concerned about the possibility of breast cancer, may want to do a full invocation of blessings to their breasts by including such elements as prayers, chanting, lighting a candle and other ways they usually invoke the sacred.
For women who are thinking about conceiving or currently pregnant, can breast massage help with breastfeeding or providing healthier breast milk?
For healthy childbearing and breastfeeding it is best that a woman is as healthy as possible. Ayurveda recommends doing a cleanse and rejuvenation according to ayurvedic principles before conception. Breast Massage can be a part of this preparation.
Many women have breast tenderness at the beginning of pregnancy making breast massage uncomfortable at first. However, gentle breast massage later on during pregnancy can promote a healthy development of breastfeeding structures, which occurs during pregnancy.
What other practices do you recommend to support healthy breasts?
Healthy eating is also key to healthy breasts. Ayurveda states that both breast milk and menstrual fluid come directly from the blood plasma. Even while not breastfeeding, the tissues are especially tuned into the quality of blood.
One Ayurveda technique that is also useful is marma point therapy. There are several specific points which can be massaged for 5-10 minutes to energetically support breast health. Reiki to the breasts is another energy healing technique that can be used.
Terra Rafael, Registered Midwife (in retirement), attended home births from 1981-2001 and taught over 150 midwifery students, apprenticing several in her practice. She’s also a Certified Ayurveda Practitioner and a 2001 graduate of the Alandi Ayurveda Gurukula. Specializing in women’s health, her online school, WiseWomanhood features many education videos. Rafael is also a Certified Practitioner of Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy™. Find her latest book, Journey to the Great Midwife in our library.