It’s no secret that yoga is scientifically proven to benefit nearly every system in your body. From lengthening and strengthening your spine to reducing depression and anxiety, a dedicated yoga practice can improve your quality of life at any age. Unfortunately, in our modern times most people just do not move enough. Working at a desk, commuting, and sitting too much can contribute to weight gain and a generally unhealthy lifestyle. Perhaps one of the best things you can do to lose weight and boost your immune system is to get your lymphatic system flowing with practices like jumping on a trampoline, massage, and of course, yoga!
What Is The Lymphatic System & What Does It Do?
If you have not heard of it before, the lymphatic system is a complex network of tissue and organs that span your entire body. This system helps to expel waste and toxins from your body, mainly through sweat, bowel movements, saliva, and urine. Lymphatic fluid is full of white blood cells, which fight infection and prevent infection from spreading. Your body is full of lymph nodes, which can get swollen with fluid when you have a cold. The largest spots of lymph nodes are around your vital organs like your lungs, heart, adrenals, armpits, and around your groin.
While swollen lymph nodes while you have a cold doesn’t sound like a big deal, having a healthy lymphatic system is actually key to recovering from diseases and preventing them altogether. A faulty lymphatic system can lead to very serious conditions like cancer, autoimmune disorders, and lymphedema. It’s important to note that unlike blood, the lymphatic system doesn’t have it’s own built in pump mechanism. In real world terms, that means lymphatic fluid doesn’t move around your body unless you move it! Gentle massage and exercises like yoga are the best way to get lymphatic fluid flowing.
How Does Yoga Improve Lymphatic Circulation?
Yoga is an excellent way to get lymphatic fluids circulating in your body. Two things that greatly impact the lymphatic system are muscular contractions and gravity – so anytime your head is below your heart or if you are in the throws of physical exercise, that is going to be great for the lymphatic system. Almost every yoga practice and style tends to have both of these elements, and that is what makes yoga an excellent practice for moving lymphatic fluid. Yoga also promotes relaxation, which can help the muscles sort of “get out of the way” of the lymphatic fluid and allow it to flow more freely.
Yoga Poses for Lymphatic Fluid Movement
The following yoga sequence was designed specifically for the lymphatic system. It incorporates poses that bring relaxation to the neck, nose, and throat area to allow for lymphatic drainage. Some of the poses, like bow pose and wide-legged standing forward bend will bring a massaging action to the organs around the core, which also helps lymphatic fluid release into the digestive system. When practicing yoga for lymphatic circulation, make sure you drink tons of water so any toxins that are released don’t reabsorb into the bowels. You may also consider helping the drainage along with a gentle Ayurvedic body brush (instructions below).
Balasana — Child’s Pose
Child’s Pose is a great way to begin your yoga practice. You can sink into your mat, close your eyes, and shut out the outside world for a little bit. While in the pose, take several deep breaths and focus on relaxing your jaw. You might want to imagine that your skin is pulling back slightly from your crown.
Begin on your hands and knees. Spread them wide and keep your toes touching. Place your bottom on your heels and gently lower forward.
Lay your torso between your thighs and lay your forehead on the floor.
You can leave your arms by your side or stretch them out in front of you.
Adho Mukha Svanasana — Downward Facing Dog
Even after doing just one yoga pose, you will likely feel a shift in your mind state and circulation. Downward Facing Dog is an excellent pose to move lymphatic fluid because it places your heart above your head. If you are sick, you might want to have some tissues nearby while doing this pose. It can really get things moving!
Come to your hands and knees.
Walk your hands forward, spread your palms, index fingers parallel or slightly turned out, and turn your toes under. Make sure your elbows are slightly bent and your arms are externally rotated.
Exhale and lift your lower body up and back.
Either keep your knees bent or if possible try to touch your feet flat on the ground.
Keep your head active between your arms, don’t let it hang down all loose.
Prasarita Padottanasana — Wide-Legged Standing Forward Bend
This pose is excellent for moving lymphatic fluids using gravity! Remember to breathe deeply from your diaphragm while doing this pose. When you come to an upright position, the fluid will drain from your lymph and get cleansed through your lymph nodes.
Place your feet perpendicular to the long edge of your mat.
Place your hands on your hips and hinge forward slowly with a natural curve to the spine.
Place your hands and head on the floor, using a block under the head if needed.
Make sure your thighs are internally rotated to protect your knees and lower back. Let the head hang or enjoy the pressure on your third eye.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana — Supported Bridge Pose
To practice this pose, you need a yoga block or bolster.
Lay on your back, bend your knees, and put the prop under your sacrum.
Once the prop feels comfortable, settle in and let your arms fall naturally by your side.
Close your eyes and relax into the pose for a minimum of 5 minutes.
Dhanurasana — Bow Pose
Bow Pose is excellent for strengthening the abdomen, and it also moves the fluids that circulate around your heart. In addition to the lymph nodes located there, Bow Pose also stimulates the thymus gland, which can trigger the release of more white blood cells and dramatically boost your immunity. This pose can be challenging, so make sure you take it slow and consider practicing with a blanket roll just where your chest meets the floor.
Lie in a prone position.
Bend your knees and hold your ankles with your hands.
Pull upwards on your feet and allow the weight to lift your chest.
Keep your lower abdomen on the floor.
Hold for 1-2 breaths and release. Repeat as feels comfortable.
Ardha Matsyendrasana — Seated Spinal Twist
Although twists don’t immediately come to mind when you think of lymphatic drainage, they are excellent for detoxing the organs around the belly where lymphatic fluid often sits. Twisting squeezes the organs like a sponge and floods them with new blood once you release. If you are detoxing, you might get a little bit of a headache after doing twists.
Sit on the floor with both legs stretched out.
Bend one leg over the other and bring your heel to your buttocks.
Bend the opposite leg towards the thigh.
Cross the opposite-side hand over your knee, same-side hand goes behind your back.
Concentrate the stretch on the back of the bend thigh and glutes. Be sure to switch after 5 breathes to get both sides.
Salamba Sirsasana — Supported Shoulder Stand
This is the ultimate pose for lymphatic drainage! Shoulder Stand can dramatically improve your circulation when practiced over time, and it is also known for boosting metabolism to help you lose weight. As an added benefit, it is one of the easier inversions to practice as it does not require quite as much core and back strength to hold. Keep in mind—you might want to practice this one with your feet on the wall for stability.
Lay on your back with your shoulders and head propped up on a blanket roll.
When you’re ready, lift your feet towards the ceiling and support your lower back with your hands.
Stay for as long is comfortable, or until you feel tingling in your feet.
Lower your back onto the mat one vertebra at a time.
Viparita Karani — Legs Up The Wall
If you only have time for one yoga pose, this one is highly suggested. Yogis of any age and ability can get benefits from this pose. In order to practice it properly, you will need two blanket rolls and a bolster. You might also want a sandbag to put on your feet.
Place a bolster or blanket roll parallel to the wall.
Kneel beside it on your dominant side. Drop your dominant arm to the floor and slowly roll over so that your lower back is on the support and your legs stretch up the wall towards the ceiling.
Stay here for up to 20 minutes.
When coming down, lower your legs halfway down the wall to give the fluid time to adjust.
Roll back over and come to seated. Be careful about coming out of this pose too quickly, it can cause fainting in some people.
Ayurvedic Dry Brushing
In addition to lessening cellulite and increasing muscle tone, Ayurvedic dry brushing is one of the best ways to move lymphatic fluid. It is also an excellent self-care practice that can keep your skin healthy and glowing.
Dry Brushing Instructions:
Perform dry brushing before morning showering or bathing.
Stroke from the feet up towards the heart using a dry skin brush or gloves.
Use circular strokes around the joints, stomach, and on the buttocks.
Dry brush from the hands to the shoulders.
Apply light pressure to target lymphatic fluid.
After bathing or showering, apply a nice, natural body oil or lotion.