Did you know that the lymphatic system, which removes bacteria, germs and toxins from your body, doesn’t have a pump? Unlike blood that is pumped around your body by the beating heart, lymph relies on large muscular contractions for transportation.
With lymph being transported between the muscles and the skin, it is these contractions that help massage it along. This circulation also relies on movement in the torso when we breathe deeply and a vinyasa class will cover this. The ways in which we twist, compress, invert and breathe in yoga doesn’t only make our muscles springy & strong. These squeezing and contracting actions help to transport bacteria and toxins through our body via lymph fluid.
Regular exercise increases our breathing and contracts muscles, however we aren’t encouraged to use the entire lung capacity with control. In a well-executed vinyasa class you are constantly reminded to breathe, not only more, but slowly and deeply. This stimulates the central organs and helps to move lymph towards the glands in the throat, armpits and groin.
A Little Bit About Lymph
Lymph is a fluid that is circulated through the body similar to blood, however it is clear, not bright red. It is rich in white blood cells which comprise part of our immune system. This fluid is transported from our organs, through our bodies to lymph nodes where germs and bacteria are destroyed.
When stress was wreaking havoc in my body, blood tests were returned with an incredibly low white blood cell count. My body was fertile ground for germs and bacteria and I wasn’t able to fight them off effectively. Practising yoga regularly, and in particular, days upon days of deep breathing practices, was one of the ways that I healed. I slowly brought my immune system back with healthy eating, supplementation and stress reduction through yoga and breathing. Three years in fact, of placing daily breathing practices at the top of my priority list was one way I helped this. As I breathed, I was transporting my slowly increasing white blood cells through my body via lymph. Back then I would be knocked down for two weeks at a time with cold and flu twice each year. With an improved lymphatic and immune system, I now might get a mild cold about once every two years.
Lymphoedema in India
Lymphoedema is a condition occurring when your lymph nodes become blocked or inflamed. It is closely related to a type of cancer called lymphoma. The main cause of lymphoedema in India is by an infection called filariasis. Filariasis is a worm-like parasite that destroys the lymphatic vessels and is contracted when you walk with bare feet. An intervention was done in India where they taught people foot hygiene – (washing the skin), wearing shoes and yoga. The results were a significant reduction of symptoms where the lymphatic system had started functioning more efficiently.
Water! Drink it
We know that water makes our skin glow and aids the detoxification process of the body. One of the reasons why is because when we drink water, we keep lymph fluid thin and make it more mobile. Think clear flowing stream and a body brimming with lightness and energy, as opposed to a dirty, stagnant, lifeless pool.
Get Upside Down
The up and down actions of our bodies when we do sun salutations are yet another way to help move and encourage lymph fluid through our bodies. Each time we fold forward, pause in downward dog or get upside down, we reverse the effects of gravity. In doing so we aid the upward flow of lymph and with special valves along the lymph channels, it doesn’t reverse it’s direction when we come the right way up again. The muscular actions that we use in strong yoga poses, help to massage the fluid along its’ transportation channels, which are between the muscles and the skin.
So come to class hydrated. Your movement, coupled with your mobile and sparkling lymph fluid will be a breezy journey towards the lymph nodes.
Get Your Body Moving
If we don’t move, neither will our lymph fluid. We need to move our bodies in as many directions as we possibly can, as well as keep a strong inward stimulation with the diaphragm. This movement will keep our lymphatic system working efficiently. With Vinyasa being a style that is practised with vigour, deep breathing, muscle contraction & inversions, this is your weekly go-to, to ensure that we keep those nasties moving through and out of our bodies.
Throughout her 30’s she was a wild woman with a hunger to understand the meaning of life.
She taught & practiced yoga while rebelling against society's expectations of how a yogini should be. Yoga, meditation & wellbeing strengthened her heart/mind, gave solace when things were tough and helped her to conquer her challenges.
These days she's living the right way up more often than not. She teaches in and manages her yoga studio, the Yoga Sanctuary and applies the wisdom from her wild years to a healthier and happier life.
Denise writes from the perspective of living, learning, failing and overcoming the tests of a life well lived. This is her personal account on health, happiness, love, success & yoga.