What is a Lymphatic Disorder?
Lymphatic disorders affect the lymphatic system, which is part of the immune system. Learn more about what lymphatic disorders are and what causes them.
When your lymphatic system isn’t functioning properly, fluid can build up in your body tissue and lead to swelling. Lymphedema is a medical condition characterized by swelling that can make life more difficult due to pain, decreased mobility, and other symptoms. Fortunately, there are several ways you can manage your lymphedema symptoms at home, such as yoga. Yoga can help encourage lymphatic drainage, which means you get relief from swelling and symptoms. If you want to learn more about doing yoga for lymphatic drainage, here’s a quick breakdown and a few poses you can try out yourself.
How Does Yoga Help Lymphatic Drainage?
Yoga Poses For Lymphatic Drainage
The lymphatic system consists of a series of lymph nodes throughout the body that are connected by lymph vessels. A fluid known as lymph flows through the vessels and into lymph nodes, where cellular waste is filtered out, and the fluid continues on its journey. So, how does doing yoga for lymphatic drainage help? Here are some of the benefits of yoga for lymph drainage:
In addition to your current at-home lymphedema treatments, consider adding yoga for lymphatic drainage to your list of routine treatments to relieve symptoms and regain your quality of life.
Learning yoga poses for lymphatic drainage can be challenging for those new to the practice, but there are several beginner poses any ability level can perform. These yoga poses for lymphedema are also very easy to learn, requiring only a few minutes to learn the basics. Check out each of the poses below to get a complete breakdown of some of the best yoga poses for lymphatic drainage.
Seated neck stretch
The seated neck stretch is a simple yoga pose for lymphedema that can help patients with head, neck, or upper body lymphedema. By doing the seated neck stretch, you can encourage drainage to provide relief and reduce swelling in your head, neck, shoulders, and arms.
To start this pose, you’ll need to sit down in a chair. Next, clasp your palms behind your head and slowly bring your head down to your chest. Once your head and neck are stretched out, hold the pose for about 30 seconds before you release. You can repeat this same process to stretch your neck from side to side, only with one hand on each side of your head.
Make sure you apply very gentle pressure when you’re putting your hands on your head or neck to stretch.
Supine reclined twist
The supine reclined twist has many names and is a great way to stretch everything from your glutes all the way up to your chest. This is also a great yoga pose for winding down at the end of a yoga session.
To perform this pose, you can refer to this supine reclined twist demonstration video or follow these steps:
1. Lie on your back and place your feet flat on the floor as if you’re going to do crunches.
2. Use your feet to lift your midsection and shift it about an inch to the right, then breathe out.
3. Bring your right knee toward your chest and rotate it over your midline to the left side of your body while keeping your left leg flat on the floor with your toe pointed at the ceiling.
4. After holding for several seconds, reverse the motion to stretch your left side by bringing your left knee to your chest and rotating it to the right side of your body.
During the supine reclined twist, ensure you’re lying on your back with your arms in a T shape. As with all yoga poses, focus on your breathing and staying relaxed. Repeat this cycle several times until you’re comfortable.
If you’ve ever been to a yoga class or tried out yoga poses, you’re probably familiar with the child’s pose. The child’s pose is an effective way to gently stretch your back, hips, and thighs.
To do the child’s pose:
1. Position yourself on your hands and knees on a yoga mat.
2. Place your feet together while widening your knees as much as possible.
3. Slowly lean forward to allow your torso to rest between your legs with your head resting on the floor. If bringing your forehead to the floor isn’t comfortable, you can use your hands or a block for support and comfort.
Legs against the wall
Another simple yoga pose for lymphedema that’s very effective is positioning your legs against the wall. This pose is exactly what it sounds like and is a great way to relieve pressure and swelling in the legs and feet that may result from lymphedema.
In order to do the legs against the wall pose, place your yoga mat right near a wall. Lie on your back on the yoga mat with your legs up against the wall. The bottoms of your thighs, calves, and heels should be touching the wall while your back is resting on the yoga mat. This helps encourage circulation and stretch your legs out to relieve discomfort. In this pose, gravity works with you to slowly circulate fluid that builds up in your feet, ankles, or legs back to your heart.
Downward dog is one of the most popular yoga poses for lymphatic drainage. To perform this pose, start by getting on your hands and knees on your yoga mat. Then, lift your knees raising your hips towards the sky, relax your head towards the floor while keeping your hands and feet firmly on the mat. Try to keep your back straight and keep your arms and legs spread wide enough to provide a stable base. You can hold this pose for about 30 seconds, release it, then repeat the process. This position should resemble a triangle.
The cat-cow pose begins similarly to the downward dog pose. However, in this position, you don’t take your knees off of the ground. Instead, you keep your knees aligned vertically with your hips, changing the arch of your spine and the position of your head and hips throughout the pose. The cow part of the pose involves tilting your head and hips up, while the cat part involves arching your back inward and tilting them down.
Standing forward bend
Also known as Uttanasana, the standing forward bend is another yoga pose you may have performed naturally before. This pose is thought to be one of the first because it’s so simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s not effective, especially for finding relief from lymphedema.
To do the standing forward bend:
1. Stand with your feet about shoulder length apart.
2. Slowly bend down at the waist and reach your arms toward the ground.
3. Don’t worry if you can’t touch your toes or reach the ground — the goal is to stretch out your legs, back, and hips.
4. Take deep breaths throughout each stage of this pose, and give yourself short breaks when needed.
This pose is a great way to encourage circulation to help reduce swelling and pain.
The bridge pose is slightly more complex, but it’s great for lymphedema relief. Start by lying on your back with your feet flat on your yoga mat with your knees bent. Your knees should be vertically aligned with your feet on the mat. Next, lift your pelvis, as if you’re performing a pelvic thrust, to create a bridge from your midsection to your shoulders, neck, and head. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, then take a break and repeat. The bridge pose is great for the legs, hips, and spine.
Yoga for lymphatic drainage is something to consider if you’re looking for at-home lymphedema treatment. If you’re noticing signs of lymphedema, your specialist or therapist may recommend some of these poses for you to perform at home to find relief.
In addition to yoga for lymphedema, your doctor or specialist will often recommend compression therapy. The Flexitouch Plus System from Tactile Medical uses gentle compression to encourage the flow of lymphatic fluid to reduce swelling and relieve lymphedema symptoms from the comfort of your home. With upper body, lower body, and head and neck solutions, you can pair the Flexitouch Plus System with these yoga poses for full-body lymphedema relief.