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.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Lymphatic System & Yoga II

SEE ALSO, EARLIER POST: The Lymphatic System [Feb 25, 2011, A general overview with a discussion of poses] SEM Lymphocyte

A MICRO VIEW: As with the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system attends to every cell.  Lymph fluid enters the process as fluid leaking out of slits as “plasma” from the blood capillaries, and as intracellular fluid that seeps out of billions of cells.  There is a “dance,” of sort of give-and-take, between the lymph and blood.  Pressure from the pumping blood system leaks fluid out of the blood capillaries, along with the loss of intercellular fluid, right into the micro lymph channels.   The cellular edges of the lymph channels are more like hinged flaps that take in fluid in a one-way direction back toward the central body.

Even though, there is 2-3 times more lymph fluid than blood, the largest volume of “waste”—ninety percent—is removed by the circulatory system. The lymph system expels larger molecules that do not “fit.”  Lymph channels eventually flow largely back into the cardiovascular system. 

The lymphatic system is crucial in vertebrate immunology.  Along the routes, this lymph fluid passes through between 500-700 lymph nodes.  Small [not always very visible without radioactive measures] and bean shaped, the nodes filter the incoming fluid.  They are porous yet more like spongy filters wherein “immune cells” termed “lymphocytes” cling due to the specialized nature of the sinus tissue.  The lymphocytes sense substances [“antigens”] secreted by “pathogens”—irregular cells or invaders such as bacteria.   The lymphocytes produce “antibodies” that target “pathogens.”   Lymphocytes are white blood cells produced primarily in bone marrow.  White blood cells in the lymphatic system are B-Type and T-Type cells.  B-Types [bursa-derived] go to the spleen and lymph nodes to challenge bacteria and viruses.  T-types [thymus] go the thymus where they mature and then move to nodes to challenge pathogen-infected/mutant cells, but the thymus shrinks in adulthood.

Swelling nodes in sore throats are gross indicators that large numbers of immune cells are being channeled to the lymph nodes.  Swelling body tissue can result from poor lymphatic circulation where movement may be restricted due, for example, to lack of movement, injury, radiation or surgery that removes or scars channels/nodes and impedes flow.


Seated on an airplane for some time, the feet may begin to swell.  What is occurring is an absence of movement.   The role of movement [breath and posture] in yoga practice may enhance the function of the lymphatic system.   The compression and extension and inversion of the body that occurs in asanas [poses] “pump” the lymphatic system in a rich variety of ways. 

Yoga offers a practice experience that is quite comprehensive in its range of movement.  Intentional breath work intensifies movement of the diaphragm “pumps” the lymph system from head to pelvis.  Muscles pump lymph fluid.  The spine is moved in many directions.  The body is frequently inverted whenever the head is lowered rather than kept upright as in many popular forms of exercise. 

Gentle forms of body-mind practices are appropriate for nearly every person.  RESTORATIVE YOGA is not only accessible to most people, but also spends time in a variety of poses that allow more time for compression and drainage.  Also, the quiet of restorative-yin yoga stresses an often-overlooked element: A strong counter-response to “stress” involves quieting and calming and “relaxation.”

BEYOND YOGA, there is the possibility of directly massaging lymph tissue.  “Manual Lymphatic Drainage Massage” is sometimes cited as useful, particularly in the treatment of edema resulting from surgery to remove lymph nodes or from scarring from radiation treatment.  Either a masseuse-directed intervention or a self-directed intervention is oriented toward removing excess fluid from blocked areas causing irritating edema.  A physician that is specifically involved in your treatment should be consulted to see if MLD massage is recommended [due to the concern with spreading/facilitating the distribution of malignant cells].  Generally, recommended by a physician for massage intervention, people are encouraged to seek out massage therapists skilled in lymphatic massage, and to not automatically trust that the therapist is skilled in this particular area. 

Massage might focus on nodes around ears, behind and in front of ears, armpits, elbows, abdomen, and behind knees. Generally, self-massage of the lymph nodes for persons without clinical issues might involve:
  • Rubbing hands together
  • Warming hands over eyes
  • Rubbing forehead back over ears
  • Rotating inner surface of ear, with finger
  • Pinching under nose and sliding hand down face
  • Massaging upper jaw
  • Massaging esophagus
  • Massaging inside of upper arm to armpit
  • Massaging shoulder then squeeze down arm
  • Massage hand and twist each finger
  • Hands pressuring inner legs
  • Down calf and shin
  • Ankle joint
  • Thumb into bottom of feet, an between toes

Self-message is not unlike pressure on “acu-points” on face, feet, hands, and elsewhere.   The limiting factor for self-massage is likely to be time itself.  How much time is available and how is time to be prioritized?

Focusing on hands and/or feet or details of the feet or neck or face may not be as practical or even as beneficial as a more comprehensive movement of the body.  Focusing on a specific area of the body may be worth the effort when the specific area is deemed to be an issue.  Yoga can become a specific practice of “acu-yoga,” wherein poses are selected to concentrate on specific body regions.  But the sequences of yoga poses found in most practices tend to offer a rather comprehensive intervention.


  1. i do not see a sept 25 2011 entry. i am quite interested in reading it. ty

  2. Sorry, Find The Lymphatic System Feb 25, 2011.