Optimal health in any area of your body requires three things to flow: Blood, electricity and lymph. Blood delivers oxygen to the cells, electricity innervates them, and the lymph system drains waste material from them. The lymphatic system is our second circulatory system but unlike the cardiovascular system, where the heart pumps the blood throughout the body, the lymph system relies on us moving our bodies for it to function.
We usually do a pretty good job of moving our big muscles but there are tons of small muscles that often get neglected. This post is about moving some of those neglected muscles surrounding the breasts so that you can work towards optimal breast health. Here are 4 things you can do that will immediately deliver more blood and electricity to your cells while getting great lymph circulation.
One: Walk with reciprocal arm swing.
Reciprocal arm swing ‘pumps’ accumulated lymph away from the breast tissue. Reciprocal arm swing is a natural way of walking (your arms move opposite to your legs, i.e. right leg forward, left arm back). What is different here is the emphasis on the back swing (cross country ski). Let your arms return naturally to your side as opposed to bringing them up in front of you ‘power walking’ style. You can also do an arm swing while standing still if you can’t get out for a walk.
The back swing reciprocal arm movement also stabilizes your spine as you walk. If you have lower back pain or hip pain, this will be your best friend.
And, ideally you need your arms to be free when you walk – shoulder bags hanging off your shoulder impede your arm movement. I use a backpack or messenger bag.
Two: Ditch Your Bra.
You will have healthier breast tissue if you allow your breasts to support themselves. Okay, maybe you can’t ditch your bra completely. If you have larger breasts you need support especially for things like running, but even larger chested women can go natural sometimes by taking the bra off earlier and putting it on later.
Stop wearing a bra for sleeping (if you do). And especially, don’t wear an underwire bra. Those underwire bras press on the lymph nodes (in your arm pits, sternum and ribs) and restrict the lymph flow. They also restrict movement in your ribs.
Three: Improve your Shoulder Mobility.
The lymph nodes in your breasts need regular and well-aligned use of the muscles in your neck, armpits, shoulder, arms and hands for waste removal. So if your neck, shoulders, arms and hands are tight, chances are your lymphatic drainage is slow.
There are a lot of ways to increase shoulder mobility. One that I like is the posterior block hold. Hold a yoga block behind you by pressing your palms into the surface. Try to hold the block without gripping or using your fingers. You will want your elbows to roll behind you (as opposed to pointing out to the sides) and your shoulder blades to squeeze together. Work your way up to holding the stretch for sixty seconds, and repeat each 2-3 times per day. Try it: it is simple but not easy.
If you are new to loading your arm and shoulder tissues in this way, start out gently and let your muscles do the work – not your ligaments – and keep your feet on the ground.
A great way to begin is to use your door frame. This is a horizontal hang (raising your arm out to the side). Stand to the side of the door frame, hook your fingers over the frame and lean away from the door frame. Vary the load by moving your feet closer or further away from the door way, or moving your arm up higher.
Once you start hanging with your feet on the ground you will start noticing opportunities and places to do it. For example, you can (if you are tall enough) reach up and grab the top of your door frame while keeping your feet on the ground, and get some hanging in every time you pass through a doorway.
When you are ready to hang with your feet off the ground you can use the equipment at the playground or get a pull up bar. I have a pull up bar that attaches in a doorway. If you are hanging from monkey bars (or pull up bars) start with both feet on the ground and bend your knees so that your arms and shoulders begin to take your weight. Check in with your shoulder blades…are your shoulders hiked? If they are, back off and see if you can let them come down a little. You can change you grip, widen the distance between your arms or lessen it. Play with it and have a little fun.There is actually quite a lot to be said about hanging so I am going to pass you over to Katy Says for some additional pointers.
Note: You can’t walk until you can stand and you can’t swing until you can hang. Yes, I learned that the hard way, ouch!