Get In The (Detox!) Flow
PRACTICE YOGA, SUPPORT YOUR LYMPHATIC HEALTH
It's no secret that yoga has endless benefits for physical and mental health, from building strength to gaining flexibility to reducing stress. Practicing yoga regularly can even improve your sleep, sharpen your focus, and support heart health by helping to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. As if that weren’t enough, yoga also promotes a healthy lymphatic system… something that’s near and dear to us at de la heart!
First, a little refresher on what your lymphatic system does. This “behind the scenes” superstar helps transport lymph fluid to your lymph nodes, where it’s detoxed, filtered, then put back into circulation. (Think about when you’re sick and your lymph nodes swell up—that’s because they’re busy detoxing, draining and helping your body recover.)
A regular yoga practice works hand-in-hand (and heart-to-heart) with self-care rituals including lymphatic drainage massage and drying brushing to support your body’s natural detox flow and promote a strong immune system. If you want to take steps to improve your lymphatic health, the yoga mat is an amazing place to start.
“Yoga is an all-encompassing practice that touches and has great effect on every single system of the body. This practice was not designed by mistake!” says yoga instructor Deanna DiCarlo. “The action of physical asana whether a slow hatha class or a powerful vinyasa encourages the body to ebb and flow in many ways that support the lymphatic system.”
The focused breathwork that happens during yoga helps to boost circulation and oxygenate blood, and any twisting poses that work your core can help to “massage” your internal organs and further support lymphatic flow.
“The deepened breath and the contraction and release of muscles acts as a ‘pump’ to encourage flow,” explains Deanna. “And the postures themselves can turn the body up down and all around to assist this system, whether it be a powerful heart-pumping vinyasa or a very slow and gentle hatha class.”
Inversions are especially beneficial for draining fluid from your legs, but don’t stress if you’re not doing headstands or handstands just yet. The simple restorative pose known as Viparita Karani—i.e. “Legs Up the Wall”—is ideal for facilitating movement of lymph fluid. Lying on your back, just stretch your legs up against a wall and scoot your booty forward until you feel comfortable. It’s okay to feel a bit of a stretch in your hamstrings, but remember, this is a restorative pose, so listen to your body. Once you’re in place, just relax your legs and arms, and breathe for 5-10 minutes.
“Legs Up the Wall is one of my personal favorite poses,” says Gigi. “Elevating your legs is so beneficial for your lymphatic system. And even if I only have time to practice it for a few minutes, it helps me feel refreshed and relaxed.”
If you want to step it up a bit, a more vigorous Hatha Yoga session is also helpful for supporting lymphatic drainage. When you hold and relax poses throughout your yoga flow, it helps your body minimize production of lactic acid, which is one of the waste products that your lymphatic system has to work to remove.
All in all, starting (or continuing!) a regular yoga practice has so many benefits for your lymphatic health and your overall whole-body health. If you’re new to yoga, it’s worth it to start out by taking a beginner-level class with a certified instructor, who can teach you about the poses and make sure your form is correct.