Breasts aren’t usually invited to the self-care party—despite the fact that there’s a restorative practice for pretty much every other part of the body (pubic hair included). But there’s an argument to be made for crowning the girls guests of honor during your next big night in—as it turns out, massaging your melons has some major health benefits.
“Massage is a wonderful, stress-relieving, detoxifying practice for the whole body,” says natural beauty expert Jessa Blades. And no, you don’t need to be pregnant or nursing to reap the rewards, a fact the holistic wellness world’s been clued in to for ages. “In Ayurveda, if you get a full-body massage, your breasts are massaged too,” Blades notes. “It’s odd that we don’t massage the breasts [in the West].”
While mammary manipulation might not be mainstream at the moment, that’s starting to change as word gets out on the physical and emotional benefits the practice produces. And fortunately for those too shy for a full-frontal rubdown from a stranger, it’s easy to do at home.
Scroll down to learn the proper way to perform a breast massage—and why you’ll want to show your bosom buddies some love.
The case for massaging your breasts
Okay, so you’re not exactly rubbing out muscle kinks during a breast massage, but those in-the-know say the physical benefits are still profound.
For one thing, the body’s lymphatic system is highly concentrated in the underarm and chest regions. Stimulating these areas helps keep this key detox mechanism running smoothly, says Katinka Locascio, licensed massage therapist and founder of New York City-based wellness center Earth & Sky Healing Arts. “Wearing a bra can keep our lymph circulation from draining easily out of the breast,” she explains. “Taking off your bra and massaging your breasts at the end of the day can help drain the stagnant lymph fluid and bring in fresh blood supply.” (Though research has yet to explore the benefits of breast massage—AKA manual lymphatic drainage—as a preventative care technique on its own, it has been shown to be effective at reducing lymph build-up in the body in post-op mastectomy breast cancer survivors, according to a study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science.)
“Taking off your bra and massaging your breasts at the end of the day can help drain the stagnant lymph fluid and bring in fresh blood supply.” —Massage therapist Katinka Locascio
It’s also a good way to reduce hormonal boob tenderness and reduce swelling, Locascio adds. Not to mention massage is a pretty effective preventative care measure, as feeling yourself up regularly will keep you, ahem, abreast of any issues that may arise. “If you’re in touch with your breasts, you’ll be the first one to notice if something’s different,” says Blades. (Think unexplained pain or lumps.)
Getting intimate with your ta-tas is healing on an emotional level, too. “We only really think about our breasts as they relate to nursing, pregnancy, or cancer,” says Blades. “Massage is a way to [equate breasts with] pleasure, so we aren’t feeling confused, fearful, or guilty around them. It’s really nurturing.”
How to massage your breasts
Good news: There’s really no wrong way to do it, promises Locascio. But there are a few things to keep in mind in order to get the most out of your massage.
First off, she says, strip down above the waist and apply oil to your breasts and armpits. Companies are starting to produce products specifically for breast massage—natural body-care brand Poppy & Somebody has an oil. For something more lo-fi, Locascio likes calendula oil, but even coconut or olive oil will do in a pinch.
“Start by cupping one hand just above your opposite breast so that your fingertips go into your armpit and your thumb is on the front of your chest,” says Locascio. “You’re basically cupping your pectoral muscle with your whole hand. Gently squeeze this area in a rhythmic pumping motion.” (Make sure to start here, so you’re clearing the lymph from your armpit first.)
“This isn’t just a robotic activity to move fluid—it’s a way of connecting with your body.”
Then, she says, gradually move your hand down onto the top part of your breast. “Using this same pumping motion, work around the outside, under, and then inner part of your breast, around the nipple, and back toward the armpit. Your direction of pressure is to push fluid from your breasts toward your armpits.”
Want to change things up a little bit? “You can alternate the squeezing or pumping with some gentle fingertip circles, again with the intention of moving fluid toward your armpit—kind of like giving yourself a breast self-exam, except with a nice rhythm,” says Locascio. “You can also experiment with a faster or slower pace and firmer or softer grip. The point is, it should feel nice. This isn’t just a robotic activity to move fluid—it’s a way of connecting with your body.”
She recommends spending five to ten minutes of quality time per breast, three to four times a week—and remember to go bra-less for a while after you finish. Give it a try, and you may wonder why you ever left your lady lumps out of your self-care routine.
“They’re amazing,” Blades proclaims. “Let’s honor them and get to know them.” Breast friends forever!
Originally published March 23, 2017. Updated August 5, 2019.
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