Yoga is a proven system of health that is thousands of years old.
Yoga has stood the test of time and cultural changes because, simply, it works. It restores, rejuvenates, balances, strengthens and clears both body and mind. The noncompetitive yoga positions, or asanas, stretch and strengthen muscles, loosen joints, invigorate the immune system, eliminate poisons and revitalize the entire body.
I was involved in a horrific accident many years ago. This resulted in broken bones, including bones in both legs, with many traumatic surgeries and plenty of unsuccessful physiotherapy. I was bedridden for two years. If you lie down for a prolonged period of time, muscles atrophy and you can no longer move easily. Essentially, the body moves because of the joints. If you do not use your hands, for instance, the joints lose flexibility and do not move as skillfully as before. What you don’t use you lose.
Thankfully, at that time, still bedridden, I discovered yoga. As I religiously practiced and deeply studied this method of movement, it took just a few more years for me to walk again without support. It was almost unbelievable. It was a new beginning for me. I attributed my new chance in life to this ancient technique and as a result, today I also teach yoga and have done so for 25 years.
Yoga is basically an internal self-massage method that complements the external massage done by massage therapists.
Yoga is the only form of exercise that is truly concerned with body oxygenation, given the countless ancient breathing techniques that are included in its practice. As a bonus, the gentle movement of the diaphragm, during inhalation and exhalation, creates an internal massage in the abdominal organs. This natural massage regulates and restores the organs. Breathing also triggers endorphins in the brain, deeply calming the restless mind and reducing compulsive thoughts.
To become a better facilitator for health, I also became a massage therapist; however, I wanted to know more. After taking many highly specialized classes in lymphatic drainage massage, I also became a lymph massage therapist.
One night before falling asleep, I started to think about yoga, massage and lymph. I wanted to know why all three work so well when they are all so different. I began searching for an answer, and I found it: All three systems work together to help the body restore or maintain balance, and the key to this synergistic work is the lymphatic system. Yoga, massage and lymph drainage all stimulate a flow of lymphatic fluid.
Our Inner Aquarium
The body can be compared to an aquarium. Our body cells, like fish, are bathed and nourished in the “living water” of the lymph system. We know the body is about two-thirds water, but few people know the bloodstream contains about 20 percent of this water. Most people will be surprised to learn the lymphatic system holds at least twice as much water and has twice as many vessels as the bloodstream.
However, if all this bodily water is not consistently drained and oxygenated, as with any neglected home aquarium, an accumulation of debris is not only inevitable, it’s expected.
The lymphatic system is the body’s fundamental water reservoir. Though disregarded in the past because of its elusive characteristics, today this system is considered one of the most important systems of the body.
The lymphatic system comprises lymph, lymphatic vessels and lymph nodes. Lymph is a transparent liquid that flows inside the lymphatic vessels. The lymphatic vessels move the lymph through the body in one direction, toward the heart. In its trajectory, the lymph also passes through lymph nodes distributed along the lymph vessels like pearls strung on a necklace. Lymph nodes not only produce lymphocytes, the antibodies that defend the citadel of the body, they also filter and clean the lymph that passes through them.
The lymphatic system bathes all cells, tissues and organs of the body, cleansing and nourishing them. It is the transport-and-drainage system of the body. It carries away cell wastes from the cells to the bloodstream; efficiently collects and returns protein and water to the heart; feeds the cells with vitamins, minerals and proteins; diligently absorbs fat; and vigilantly recognizes and responds to microbes, and both foreign and cancer cells. The lymphatic system bravely fights disease and infection by producing lymphocytes.
The lymphatic system is the septic system, the nourisher and defender of all other bodily systems. When flowing smoothly, the lymphatic system can be considered the miracle system of the body.
A sluggish lymphatic system clogs the tissues, retains toxins and slows down functions and systems in the body. The aquarium within becomes polluted and a source of diseases. Desperately, the cells try to get our attention by making our lives more difficult. We feel discomfort and pain followed by insomnia and diseases. Cells, tissues and organs are poisoned by the toxic environment they live in.
When disease, infection, cold, flu, surgeries, accidents, poor breathing or stress occur, the lymph system gets sluggish. The lymph nodes become overloaded with the buildup of debris, which further slows down the lymph fluid. The protein-rich lymph content is unable to move and it then hardens, generating fibrotic tissues, muscle stiffness and calcification over time.
Toxins normally filtered out and destroyed by the lymph fluid are now thrown onto other organs. The jammed lymph reduces the ability of the brain and other organs to do their work. Cellular activity slows down, leading to cellular degeneration and aging.
This bodily chaos and systematic degeneration of cells, tissues and functions can lead to serious and oftentimes preventable conditions. Some of the symptoms of a chronically sluggish lymph system can include frequent colds and flu, allergies, fluid retention, fibrocystic breast tissue, headaches, muscle cramping, fatigue, depression, tissue swelling, acne and cellulite.
If we don’t facilitate lymph drainage, the body becomes less flexible. The rich-protein content of the lymph fluid rapidly hardens and impairs the nourishment of the cells. Slowly and surely, motion is restricted and internal organ functions are compromised.
Unlike the cardiovascular system, which relies on the heart to pump the blood, the lymphatic system does not have a central pump to assist its flow. It is a system that can get stagnant very easily. The lymphatic system is a slow system by nature, one that mainly moves because of muscle activity and deep breathing. Motion and breathing are the main biological activators of the lymphatic system.
Yoga is a form of exercise that provides both deep breathing, or pranayama, and body motion through the asanas. The natural massage done by the diaphragm during deep breathing literally sucks the lymph from the periphery of the body to the main lymph vessels. This natural massage prevents lymph stagnation. The asanas consistently stretch the skin, muscles and vessels, encouraging lymph flow throughout the body.
A carefully designed and sequenced yoga class becomes the ideal technique to move the water of life, the lymph, within our bodies. This is a technique anyone can practice to improve and rejuvenate both body and mind.
Lymphatic Yoga, the technique I developed, uses yoga techniques to prevent lymph stagnation and assure a continuous lymph flow. A smooth lymph flow, in turn, assures the removal of toxins and debris while it prevents bacteria and waste stagnation in the body.
Consequently, cell nourishment becomes more efficient, tissue repair is accelerated and the lymph nodes, not overloaded by debris, are able to quickly and more effectively respond to invaders with increased production of lymphocytes. Furthermore, the immune response becomes more powerful. Rejuvenation and beauty caused by increased health are the unexpected results of this miracle system’s proper flow.
We are in charge of our own health. Nobody else is. It is important to be proactive, to keep the lymph fluid moving. What you don’t use you lose. The lymphatic system is so vital to all structures of the body. Keep yours flowing.
About the Author
Edely L. Wallace, C.D.T., M.L.D., is the author of Lymphatic Yoga and the Water of Life, as well as the founder and director of Yogamatrix studio. She has researched the lymphatic system for more than 20 years. She is an experienced registered yoga teacher and certified in lymph drainage.