RESTORATIVE-YIN YOGA involves supported body/mind relaxation. This is gentle, gentle yoga that promotes deep relaxation for stress reduction while also stretching and rehabilitating connective tissue.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Lymphatic System

Supported Legs Up The Wall Inversion Pose

[SEE ALSO: Later March 1, 2012 post: The Lymphatic System & Yoga II]

THE LYMPHATIC SYSTEM drains watery clear fluid [lymph] from cells and returns fluids to the blood to maintain fluid balance.  Major functions include absorption of lipids from the intestines and the circulation of lymphocytes [immune cells that protect against antigens such as viruses, bacteria and molds].  Lymphocytes are produced in the bone marrow [T-] and spleen [B-], enter the blood, pass into the capillaries, and then into the tissue.  Bean-shaped lymph nodes [2-3 centimeters] provide a major site for lymphocytes to engage antigens.  Lymphocytes are a type of white blood cell that involve both "naive" and  "memory" cells.   Naive cells recognize new "infections" and then adapt to eradicate "invaders."  Memory cells were once "naive" cells that became "memory cells" that recognize previous "infections," and they clone themselves to fight off infection.  With age, we tend to maximize memory cells that can reduce immunity.  Exercise may flush the oversupply of memory cells and replace these with naive cells.

While the vascular system has the heart for a circulatory pump, a low pressure “flow” [peristalsis] for the lymphatic system is created by muscular/skeletal activity.  The lymphatic system is concentrated in the tissue of the neck, armpits, and groin, but also significant in the heart, lungs, intestines, liver and skin.

Leslie Kaminoff, Yoga Anatomy, Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2007, p.18,
[Illustration by Sharon Ellis]

Supports utilized in restorative yoga combine with the openness of the poses to optimize attention to the lymphatic system.  Supports reduce muscle constriction, and the sequence of poses often feels more open.  The hips open, arms spread out, and muscles relax.  Gentle inversions drain fluid into the lymph glands.  Gentle twists and gentle bends massage the internal soft tissue.  Overall, restorative poses are less constrained. 


  1. Nice post.. I was wondering what your thoughts are on Lymphedema and Omega 3 vitamins combined with Chinese green tea and protein shakes... I have been testing this combination for approximately 2 weeks now and have been seeing interesting results....

  2. Thank you. The focus here is on optimizing the lymphatic system through gentle movement--flushing/stimulating. There are related effects, such as stimulating specific endocrine glands, but specific results are largely beyond measure. There are more effusive effects, such as effects upon the Eastern energy systems that relate to specific organs.

    The role of nutrition is very complex and beyond my knowledge base. The primary place where i offer restorative-yin practice [YMCA Healthy Living Center} does work specifically with lymphedema, and I will be asking them about this. Western evidence suggests various functional effects for the nutritional elements listed. But there are complex issues such as genetic variation that make something perhaps effective for someone and less so for another person. Intuitive exploration can be a good thing, but with a caution to be self-critical and not excessive--a sort of "middle way."

    Applying the heart of restorative practice, the idea is aspire to optimize and thrive by integrating a core process of calmness, listening, and contentment with life as it presents itself. Often, health is chased after with a degree of anxiety--chasing survival--that might induce stress rather than relieve it. Restorative yoga can gently bring body practice attention to the lymphatic system, and by increasingly calming and listening to the body, attract each person to look at overall nutrition that optimizes body function and to counter eating habits that go against the body. Quality nutrition--whole foods in moderation--is likely something for which every body calls out to us to provide. Then wondrously, the body knows how to distribute it.

    Having said all of this, intentional focus on trying very specific nutritional elements, keeps one looking at a value for nutrition, gives you a ritual for paying attention, and might lead to real results. However, conclusions will be anecdotal--personal--and may not be reliable/valid for others. Nutrition components are not easily tested in human beings, as we do not control all aspects of diet, exercise, etc.