Q “Do you know of any old lady poses to help lymph drainage, especially in the legs and to stimulate the spleen? My workout has become very limited as I have gotten very stiff in the past year.” -Patty A. in South Florida.
A Let’s begin with the second part of your question regarding stimulation of the spleen, since that will be the shorter answer. Spinal twists are beneficial for the spleen and other internal organs. This is because when you are twisting your torso the blood flow becomes restricted in the compressed area. When the twist is released fresh blood rushes into the tissues and organs on that previously restricted side. This blood rushing through the area can help flush out old blood and toxins that may have been collecting here. Side bending postures are beneficial as well, for the same reason.
Now, lets talk about the part of your question regarding lymph drainage in the legs. Because it flows in only one direction with no organs acting as pumps to help it get where it is going, lymph moves through the body slowly. It is pushed along by outside pressure on the structures of the lymphatic system, pressure such as muscle contractions, pressure changes within the body, and physical manipulation of the tissues. Which makes both yoga and massage good options for helping to move this fluid through the body.
When there is a build up fluid in the legs it may be a result of muscular inactivity, which can be caused by traveling, sitting for long periods without getting up to move around, etc.* Doing calf stretches throughout the day or on longs trips when you are unable to move around can keep the fluid moving in the right direction. Do this by flexing your ankles; reach the toes toward the shins and then pointing the toes toward the floor.
The poses listed below are great for helping drain fluid in the legs. A regular yoga practice, stretching, or exercise routine even for a few minutes a day can help keep the fluid moving and prevent the buildup of fluid in the future.
Viparita Karani (legs up the wall pose), lie on the floor with one side of your body close to a wall. Bend your knees, placing the soles of your feet on the floor. Bring your attention to your breath. When you are ready extend the leg that is closest to the wall up and then the other as you use your arms to turn your upper body away from the wall and your legs toward it. Your sits bones may not be right up against the wall and that is okay. Extend your legs up, with your feet toward the ceiling, and let them rest against the wall. Extend your arms out to the sides keeping them aligned with your shoulder joints. Think about lengthening through your spine from your tail bone through the crown of your head. Bring your focus to your breath and stay here for a minimum of 5 minutes, working up to 10 or 15 minutes when comfortable.
Salamba Savasana (supported corpse pose), find a stable chair to place your calves on while in Savasana. Lie on the floor with your knees bent and the soles of your feet on the floor. Lift your feet off the floor resting the backs of your calves on the seat of the chair. Relax your arms down by your sides, palms facing up to the ceiling. Focus on your breath and try to relax more with each exhalation. Feel yourself sinking deeper into the floor. Remember to keep your jaw and face relaxed as well. If the chair is too much elevation for your legs, try using pillows and/or blankets to elevate the feet and legs. Elevation will help the lymph drain from the legs.
As I mentioned above, massage can also help move lymph through the vessels.
Here are some steps for massaging yourself that may help move the lymph along:
- Begin at the bottom of your thigh by placing one hand on either side of your leg, just above the knee, with your thumbs meeting on top and your fingers toward the sides.
- Use a “milking” action to squeeze your thigh; slowly working your hands up the thigh toward your hip.
- Bring your hands back to the base of the thigh at the knee, separate your hands a little bit and work the hands up on either side of the thigh again, squeezing as you go.
- Continue this action beginning at the knee and working up the thigh, separating the hands a little more each time, until you have gone all the way around the thigh.
- Repeat this action on the calf, working from the ankle up to the knee.
- Finally, repeat these steps as you work all the way up the leg from the toes to the pelvis.
When doing this, it is important to start with the thigh and work your way down the leg in sections as described; this opens the pathway for the fluid. If you were to being at the foot and work up the leg without working the area above first, the fluid you were attempting to work out of the foot would be blocked by the in the calf fluid above.
Having a full body massage or performing regular self-massage will help put pressure on the lymph vessels and will keep the lymphatic system flowing. Even the simple act of breathing encourages the movement of lymph through the body. The change in pressure within the abdomen and torso is enough to push the fluid along. So, any breathing exercises are a great way to keep the lymph moving as well as to help you relax and relieve stress!
* Swelling and fluid buildup can sometimes be a result of a more serious issue. I am not a doctor or a medical professional and my statements are my opinions based on my education and research and are in no way intended to replace or override the advice of a medical professional.