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May Newsletter: Pleased to meet you

Getting to know your breasts through breast massage.

by Susan Glass


Breasts vary in size, shape, colour, and texture, and reflect diverse life experience, just as our faces do. They are a real part of a real person.

Real breasts, both our own and others, are for the most part veiled in this culture. Most women have seen more media images of idealized breasts than actual breasts on actual women. It is worth asking ourselves why this is, and what it is we are veiling.

When our breasts or any other parts of us are veiled to ourselves, we are that much more susceptible to taking on images that are projected onto us because we don¹t know who we really are. There is no shortage of images that are projected onto women's breasts in this culture. How can we prevent ourselves from being a blank screen that images can be projected onto? As we become more aware of who we actually are, we are less vulnerable to trying to be what others want us to be. As we get to know our breasts, what they feel, what they know, what they have experienced, they become an active and conscious part of ourselves. We may be surprised to know that just as we can decipher our bodies' messages that come to us through , goose flesh or blushing or butterflies in the stomach, the sensations that are often ignored or unnoticed in our breasts may have information for us as well.

For many years now, massage therapy has been a tool for women to get to know their own bodies from the inside out. Rather than standing outside herself and judging a part of her body as too big or too small, too big or too fat, a woman could experience her body from the inside. She could feel the sensations in her body, the emotions that might be stirring, and she could notice the images that come out of her own psyche as various muscles in her body are worked. Through feeling her body being kindly cared for, a woman could learn by example to take care of her own body, to treat it with love and respect rather than judgement.

Breast massage offers women the same opportunity to get to know our breasts as massage therapy offers for our bodies generally. Breast massage is a specialized form of massage therapy. Most massage work deals with muscle tissue. Because breasts are not muscle, but rather glandular tissue (mammary glands), connective tissue, and fat, the methods of treating breast tissue have to be different from the standard techniques of therapeutic massage. Breast massage is done more gently and focuses on the lymphatic drainage in the tissue. It is a very effective way of relieving the congestion and tenderness that women often experience premenstrually or perimenopausally. It is also tremendously helpful for women who have had surgery, to reduce the discomfort associated with scarring and to aid a woman in getting to know her body in a new way.

Breast massage is done with heightened sensitivity to the physical and emotional needs of the woman, because breasts can carry a great emotional charge for a variety of reasons. There is sometimes a concern about massage of the breasts because they are one of the bodies¹ erogenous zones. Care is taken by the therapist to be respectful and non-invasive, and to apply the treatment in a way that is not arousing, which is true of therapeutic massage in general. The massage would usually include work on all the underlying and surrounding structures ­ the muscles of the chest and rib cage, the upper back, arms, neck, head, and abdomen. This way the breasts are integrated with the rest of the body, part of a moving, breathing chest and rib cage. They become connected to their wellsprings in the body as a whole. Breast massage is one way that women can begin to 'take back the breast', which is what Breast of Canada is all about.

Susan Glass has worked with women as a massage therapist since 1974. Over those years her work has focused primarily on the relationship between body and psyche. She is currently completing a 3-year Leadership Training Program for women called Bodysoul Rhythms, taught by the team of Jungian analyst Marion Woodman, movement teacher Mary Hamilton, and voice specialist Ann Skinner. She is also studying breast massage and incorporating it in her massage therapy practice.

Bibliography

  • Curites, Debra, Breast Massage, Moncton, New Brunswick: Curties-Overzet Publications, 1999.
  • Love, Susan M., with Karen Lindsey, Dr. Susan Love's Breast Book, 3rd edition, Cambridge, Mass., Perseus Publishing, 2000.
  • Stoppard, Miriam, The Breast Book, New York, N.Y., DK Pub., 1996.

  • Contact Sue Richards at [email protected]

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