A properly working lymphatic system can help us stay healthy and fight many infections effectively. Think of it as super highway that filters toxins and circulates antibodies throughout your body. The trouble is our lymph fluid isn’t pumped around the body like blood, so how do we stimulate our lymphatic system to move lymph through the 600-700 lymph nodes in our body and help improve our ability to stay it and well?
Aside from hydrating well, one of the best things we can do to ensure our lymphatic system is working properly is to move your body because the flow of this protective fluid is generally created by muscular contraction, diaphragmatic breathing and yes – movement. Which is how properly targeted yoga poses can help us ensure our immune system is on top form.
The movement of lymph is also affected by gravity, so any time your head is below your heart— for example in a standing forward bend – lymph moves into the respiratory organs, where germs often enter the body. When you return to an upright position, gravity drains the lymph, sending it through your lymph nodes for cleansing. Some inversions may not be suitable for everyone but gentle leg inversions like Viparita Karani (legs up the wall) or more advanced inversions like Salamba Sarvangasana (supported shoulder stand), all use gravity to their advantage by stimulating the passive flow of lymph fluid and increasing the rate of drainage.
In addition Yoga poses that involve muscular contraction of the legs and arms are particularly effective in aiding the transport of lymph as stretching, twisting, bending and inversions all stimulate its flow and keep us more able to fight infections . Here are just a few poses to help increase blood flow, calm the mind and help improve the performance of that all important lymphatic system.
Downward Facing Dog
Improving full body circulation this asana stretches the legs, shoulders, spine and whole body. It builds strength, relieves fatigue and improves the immune system allowing the body to come into an inverted v shape.
Come to your hands and knees with the wrists underneath the shoulders and the knees underneath the hips.
Curl your toes under and push back through your hands to lift your hips up and back towards where the ceiling and wall meet behind you. Think of pushing your heels towards the floor and straighten your legs. If your hamstrings are tight don’t worry keep the legs a little bent.
Spread your fingers and ground down from the forearms into the fingertips.
Outwardly rotate your upper arms to broaden the collarbones. Notice where your shoulders are – they shouldn’t be above your wrists but moving towards the back of your mat to relieve stress on the shoulder area.
Let your head hang and move your shoulder blades away from your ears towards your hips.
Engage your quadriceps strongly to take the burden of your body’s weight off your arms and imagine lifting your knees to tone the front of the legs. This action goes a long way toward making this a resting pose.
Rotate your thighs inward, keep your tail high, and sink your heels a little further towards the floor.
Take three long inhales and exhales then bend your knees to release and come back to your hands and knees.
This pose isn’t recommended if you have a wrist injury or carpal tunnel syndrome, or if you are in the last trimester of pregnancy. It should not be done if you have a condition in which you should not allow your head to be below the level of your heart, such as high blood pressure, detached retina, or recent dental bone grafts.
Lie flat on your stomach with your forehead on the floor. Bring your feet together with the big toes touching. Place your hands on the floor with the elbows bent and the fingertips slightly behind the shoulders. Press the feet to the floor, squeeze your bottom, and press the pubic bone toward the mat as you tilt your pelvis slightly towards your naval. Imagine lifting the skin under your naval off the floor as you continue to push your pubic bone into the mat with toned legs (this protects your back).
As you press your elbows in toward the torso, roll your shoulders back away from the ears, and lift your head and upper chest feeling the muscles that line your spine getting nice and warm. Check in with your shoulders again to make sure they are moving away from your ears as your elbows move in and towards the ground. Try to hold the pose for 15 to 30 seconds. Try to do the pose three or four times over a two-minute period. Remember you really don’t need to look up or strain your neck you can look forward or slightly down.
Wide Legged Forward Fold
This is another beneficial pose as the wide stance opens the groin where lymph is concentrated and bringing the head below the heart allows the movement of lymph in the head, jaw, and chin areas.
This pose is grounding and stabilizing which also makes it good for calming the mind whilst it massages the abdominal and pelvic organs.
Start in Mountain Pose. Move to a wide stance with your feet with feet parallel or turned a tiny bit in – whatever works for your ankles – and your hands on your hips. Exhale as you gently extend down into a forward bend. Hands can remain on the hips, or place them on the floor under your shoulders, on blocks, or on any other support that allows you to be in the forward bend with a long, extended spine. Keep your knees soft and push gently into the outside edge of your feet rather than your instep. Move with your breath. As you inhale, rise up slightly, and fold a little deeper as you exhale moving from the hips and not the shoulders or lower back.
To return to standing allow a slight bend in your knees if you need one and bring the hands back to the hips lift until your spine is parallel to the mat then lift your spine up as one unit. Finally bringing your feet back together in a standing pose.
There are also many pranayama or breathing techniques which can help activate the lymphatic system, calm the mind and switch on our all-important parasympathetic nervous system. J ust about any yoga practice is beneficial for lymphatic flow because movement and muscle contraction are what increases circulation and gets the fluid moving. Adding some of these poses into your routine though,can give a little extra attention to the lymph nodes and organs of elimination.
If you would like to practice yoga and find out how much of a difference it can make to your health and well-being Bodhi Health currently offer a number of live stream classes which can be booked at http://www.bookwhen.com/bodhi