Yoga & the Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system represents our natural ability to resist and eliminate various kinds of pathogens and waste material from the body through the action of white blood cells. Following the path of the circulatory system, lymphatic activity occurs along these channels. Nutrients and fluids are initially passed from the lymph tissue into the cell tissue, and back to the lymph nodes, providing our body with the transportation of and eventual elimination of waste through the bloodstream. Some of the waste materials discarded through the proper functioning of the lymphatic system are: proteins, dead cells, waste products, bacteria, viruses, inorganic substances, excess water, and fats.
How does the practice of Yoga postures help to improve lymphatic drainage? Our lymphatic system does not work on its own, like the circulatory system. It relies specifically on the movement of large muscles for proper functioning. Yoga asanas (postures) are designed specifically to attend to the movement of large and small muscle groups as well as movement of the solar plexus and spine. The rhythmic contraction and extension of skeletal muscles in yoga postures helps to move these materials along, helping to release possible blockages, and maintain a healthy flow within our natural flushing system.
Which Yoga postures are best to help the flow of the lymphatic system? Inversions such as assisted shoulder stance (Salamba Sarvangasana), and the more gentle version, Viparita Karani (below), in which your back is flat on the ground and your legs are extended along a wall, are excellent for this process since they reverse the flow of gravity, thus quickly draining excess fluid from the legs. Twisting poses are beneficial in that they literally squeeze excess fluids through, massaging internal organs and moving toxins along to be flushed out. Vinyasa flow sequences, such as Surya Namaskar A and B, keep the whole body in constant motion, providing movement to major muscle groups. Backbends are excellent in opening the entire chest area, freeing lymph movement and releasing tension in the whole front of the body. In yoga practice, rhythmic breathing is of utmost importance to achieve the most benefits. Pranayama or breath control, is elemental in creating movement in the solar plexus and in increasing oxygen flow through the up and down motion of the diaphragm, facilitating the movement of the lymph in that area.
Who can benefit from Yoga for improved lymphatic flow? Unless specifically prohibited by your doctor, people of all ages may benefit from yoga postures as variations exist for all practitioner levels. Yoga postures are designed to accommodate most circumstances. Practices include standing postures, floor postures, chair postures, postures against a wall or counter, and, Pranayama may even be practiced in bed. It may be advisable to seek out help from a yoga instructor to determine which variations would work well for you. Let’s help our bodies receive the most benefits! Yoga is a science based on diverse actions with benefits for everyone.