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Have you watched/read the powerful visualization work called The Secret? Do you remember Cathy Goodman, who astounded the readers with the story of how she visualized herself healing from breast cancer, and then the miracle happened? The book popularized what was known in the ancient healing systems for some time—the link between how we are feeling, our energy, and what we are manifesting in our lives, in this case, cancer in her breasts.
There is something about breasts—from pop culture objectifying them to no end to cultures where any relevant discussion around breast health and prevention is swept under the carpet.
While modern medicine attributes the prevalence of breast-related cancers and tumors to a combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors, Ayurveda and many other forms of complementary and integrative medicine today add an energy component to its causes, with the proximity of the breast organ to one of the key energy centers—the heart chakra. In other words, our emotional state, worries, anxiety, stress build-up, or any other repressed emotion may be related to how we heal from these diseases.
Ayurveda addresses the healing of breast-related illnesses on both levels—healing of the blocked energy channels and healing by way of cleansing the body of toxic buildup, stagnant fluids, and clearing up the lymphatic system, which has a big say on our breast health. Ayurveda does it through an organized holistic treatment that includes balancing doshas with the right diet, minor lifestyle changes, massage therapy, and panchakarma—a personalized cleanse treatment based on your unique body constitution.
The Myth of Symmetrical Breasts
Despite their depiction in today’s culture, female breasts are rarely symmetrical. Fully grown breasts in adult females are made of internal thoracic veins, milk-producing lobules (roundish flattish sac-like structures), and a network of suspended ligaments that are connected to what is called lactiferous (carrying milk) ducts. These ducts in turn connect to lactiferous sinus, where milk is stored, and the sinus opens into the nipple. The adipose tissue or the fat forms a layer above the chest wall muscles and fills up the rest of the breasts. It is this fatty tissue that determines the size and shape of the breasts and gives them the quality of softness.
Lymph and Breasts
The lymphatic system in our body has a network of lymphatic vessels that carry fluids called lymph throughout the body to drain into nodes located in various parts of the body including axillary lymph nodes located right below the armpits. There are also lymph nodes located near the ribs and sternum adjacent to the breasts. Here, the fluids are filtered for toxins and other chemical waste, before entering back into the bloodstream. Lymph nodes also host specialized cells called lymphocytes that produce antibodies to kill harmful foreign bodies. And so, as part of breast care and prevention, it is important to keep the lymph moving and keep toxins from building up.
Breast Care in Ayurveda
Ayurveda speaks of seven dhatus that constitute the body structure—rasa (plasma), meda(fat), rakta (blood), mamsa (muscle), sukra (reproductive tissues), asthi (bones), and Majja (bonemarrow). Of this, our breasts have significant meda dhatu (adipose tissues) and lymph is part of rasa dhatu that traverses between the breast and armpit. The rasa dhatu governs the epidermal layer, menstrual flow, and lactation.
Breast Types and Doshas
The quality of rasa and meda dhatu in your physiology and lymph flow have a say on breast health too.
Vata Dosha and Breasts
People with Vata (air) dominance, may have smaller breasts. Taking from Vata properties, the skin over the breasts may be dry and thin. Imbalance in Vata could lead to shrinking of breasts, dehydration, and blockages in the ducts.
Those with Pitta dominance may have medium-sized breasts and oily skin over the breasts. An imbalance in pitta dosha can lead to inflammations, green or yellow discharges, pain, and tenderness. Sometimes infections and an abscess may also be a result of excess pitta.
Kapha people typically have large well-formed breasts with moisturized skin over the breasts. An imbalance though can lead to the formation of lumps, fluid stagnation, swelling in the breasts, oily discharge.
If you have two doshas dominating your body type, then you are likely to have breasts with features that combine both dosha types.
Sushruta, a pivotal Ayurveda physician, explained that benign lumps in the breasts could be a result of Kapha and Vata imbalance. Kapha imbalance would thicken the buildup of toxins in the ducts and Vata could lead to drying and hardening of these substances.
Check Your Rasa Dhatu
Rasa dhatu which flows through the entire body in the form of plasma and lymphatic flow is also found in the breasts in the form of breast milk. It is crucial to examine the health of rasa dhatu in your body to know about your breast health. For example, too much dryness and flaking of skin signal weak rasa dhatu. If you have Kapha imbalance or sluggishness, rasa dhatu is likely to be thick and lymphatic flow languid.
So taking care of Vata and Kapha imbalances are key in maintaining breast health. Kapha needs to be balanced to keep lymphatic movement consistent and smooth and Vata balance will propel the movement of fluids in the body and keep dryness away.
Why Breast Massage is Important
Breast massage improves the movement of lymph and rasa dhatu in the breasts. Stagnation of lymph in the ducts during lactation can be painful and be the potential cause for multiple health problems developing in the breast region. Apart from easing the muscles above ribs and improving range of motion, breast massage also supports the toxic release by channeling the movement of toxins into the lymphatic system which then gets eliminated from the body. It also brings relaxation and balances emotions that are closely linked to how your heart chakra, the energy center located in the middle of your chest, is doing. Breast massages are also recommended for lymphedema, swelling, and accumulation of lymphatic liquid that occurs often in patients who have had their lymph nodes removed from near the breast region during mastectomy or breast surgeries. Breast massage can help balance both Kapha and Vata.
Breast massage also addresses the subtle marma points, energy points in the chest region that often get blocked due to irregular movement of prana, anxiety, stress, frustration, grief, or any other form of emotional repression. There have been multiple incidences of patients reporting that their lumps or masses disappeared by addressing their emotional states, seated in the heart region.
DIY Breast Massage
Here’s a step-by-step guide to a breast massage that you can do once a week.
- First, go for a full-body Abhyanga. This will ground you.
- Join your palms and place in between your breasts. Mentally be grateful for the gift of a beautiful body from nature.
- Relax and let go of all the botherations in your mind for a few minutes.
- Observe the state of mind now.
- Take some warm sesame oil or any other natural body oil that suits your dosha constitution, in your hands. You can use essential oils like chamomile, frankincense, or oregano that have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Start moving your fingers in a circular motion, moving from making smaller circles around the nipple to making bigger circles going away from the nipple.
- Now, massage the area between upper regions of the breasts extending into armpits.
- In long slow strokes, massage all the way up to your collar bones to shoulders.
- After the massage, place your hands on the chest bones and observe the relaxation. For a few minutes, be one with this peaceful feeling.
It is recommended that healthy women should practice breast massage doing 100 circular strokes on both breasts. If you are recovering from breast surgery or tumor, then this number can differ based on medical advice.
Additional Tips in Preventive Breast Care
Seasonal cleanses can balance the doshas, bolster immunity, rejuvenate lymph circulation, and remove blockages and buildup of toxins or aama. An Ayurvedic cleanse works like an overhaul for the lymphatic system which is responsible for producing antibodies and keeping the immune system in top form.
It is important to keep your body and skin sufficiently hydrated by increasing your intake of fluids. This will take care of the consistency and health of rasa dhatu in your body and flush out toxins more effectively.
You can have ginger in the form of ginger tea to balance both Kapha and Vata doshas, which play an important role in breast health.
Practice Yoga and Pranayama
Practicing pranayama helps regulate the flow of prana in your body. There are different forms of prana and when it moves through the body without stagnation or obstructions, in the right direction that it is supposed to, then you are likely to be healthy. The three-stage pranayamas taught as part of the Art of Living Retreat Center’s Happiness Retreat are particularly helpful in the correction of all forms of prana flow in the body, that regulate various body functions. Asanas like cobra pose, cow pose, backbends, forward bends, triangle pose can all help open up the chests, ease movement of air and lymph in the region.
Meditation is a must to ease emotional conflicts that can often show up physically in the form of various illnesses and tumors when left unresolved for long. Meditation also helps you become a witness to life situations, so you are affected less by the intensity of these events.
Make sure your diet has a sufficient intake of iodine that helps regulate the movement of lymph in the body.
Avoid Underwire Bras
It is recommended to avoid wearing bras with underwires. Having these synthetic bras on for too long can constrict the breast region, cause marks on the skin, and also block the free-flowing prana.
Avoid Commercial Antiperspirants
Commercial antiperspirants are loaded with heavy metals and other toxic chemicals that have been found in numerous breast cancer patients. You can instead go for natural or herbal non-toxic options. Ayurveda also offers ways to reduce body odor naturally by managing your diet, bringing certain doshas to balance, and using certain essential oils for body massages.