Re-Examining Breast Health
One great way to stimulate lymph flow all through the body is with a vigorous vinyasa practice. A sweaty round of Suryanamaskar (Sun Salutations) is an excellent way to do this. This sequence can be modified to provide an appropriate level of challenge for almost any student.
More specifically, many yoga poses directly contract and stretch the muscles of the chest, arms, and shoulders, massaging the nearby lymph nodes and encouraging lymph flow through the area. Poses like Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose) and Pincha Mayurasana (Elbow Balance) work and stretch the chest, as do backbends. Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose) especially stretches the armpit. Even simple poses and actions, like backbending over a bolster and stretching an arm overhead, can be very effective at loosening and stimulating this area. Shifting the hips from side to side in Balasana (Child's Pose) and rocking back and forth along the spine in Padangustha Halasana can actually massage breast tissue to stimulate lymph flow.
Change Your Attitude
Despite decades of encouragement from public health officials, providers, and educators, some polls indicate that as many as nine out of 10 women still don't perform regular breast self-exams. Kami McBride, director of the Living Awareness Institute in Vacaville, California, has devoted her life to helping women heal their relationship with their bodies. "One of the most important things a woman can do is to shift her perspective on her breasts away from wishing they were different," says McBride. She encourages her clients to use nonsexual touch and herbal pampering to improve their relationship with their breasts. She contends, "It is so important for girls and women to learn to discern how they feel based on their inner experience. Instead of looking at ourselves in a mirror and comparing ourselves to the latest magazine image of how breasts 'should' look, we need to feel the inherent joy of being alive in a female body."
With its focus on concentration, presence, and fully conscious activity, yoga can be a crucial tool in connecting with what your body feels and what it can do. Many women find that yoga helps them experience a new appreciation for their body as they experience the sweetness of a deep stretch or the contentment that can follow a vigorous practice. This increased awareness of and comfort with the body can in turn make it easier for a woman to familiarize herself with the ways her breast tissue changes as she moves through her monthly cycle, establishing a clear baseline understanding that increases the value of regular breast self-exams.