How Ayurvedic Breast Massages Can Help Promote Lymphatic Flow

Photo: Urban Outfitters

As the realization that shame, deep-seated stigmas, and general apathy toward women's healthcare and education continue to come to light (in what I can only describe as a misogynistic manipulation of legislation, among other things), we're all left searching for a way to empower ourselves and take control of our bodies. Rather than focus on the collection of people fighting for power over my flesh, I've decided to invest time in organizations that are working to improve wellness for women.

Such is the case with The Chopra Center, a San Francisco–based treatment center that provides experiences, education, teacher trainings, and products meant to improve your health from a physical, emotional, and spiritual standpoint. Its mission is for women to take breast health into their own hands, and as such, has launched an Ayurvedic breast massage as part of its offerings. (It's the only wellness center in the nation to offer the holistic treatment on a large scale.) Having dealt with taking my own breast health into my own hands a few years back, the massage immediately peaked my interest.

First, a little background: Ayurveda, a 5000-year-old healing wisdom tradition from India, teaches in order to maintain a state of balance, the whole person must be addressed—no part of the body or energy is excluded. Though, as you may probably have guessed, many healing practices overlook the breast area. "The conversation began while the Chopra Center spa was working on a study for breast cancer survivors to see if meditation, massage, and other daily practices like yoga and pranayam could help reduce the number of reoccurrences," explains Jennifer Johnson, the spa director of the Chopra Center and the creator of the massage.

"Over years of work, we found that many women work through complicated issues with their breasts, confusion from oversexualizing, and shame carried through various belief systems, and also that women very rarely touch their breasts," says Johnson. "We also saw women confronting complicated emotions after recovery from breast surgeries—everything from biopsies, lumpectomies mastectomies, reconstruction, and augmentations. We have introduced the Ayurvedic breast massage to bring awareness back into the body and breast, to help women know what healthy tissue feels like so they can better recognize abnormalities early on, and discuss the best course of action with their healthcare provider. We are really excited to offer this innovative new treatment that we believe will change the conversation around breast health, which is a vital component on the path to total well-being," said Johnson. "Our Ayurvedic breast massage combines movement, breath and manual manipulation to provide lymphatic circulation to this part of the female body that wouldn't otherwise receive the lymphatic benefits of exercise."

Below, she answers more of my questions.