Love Your Lymph Moves
Exercise is important for general health, in particular your lymphatic system. Remember this is how we flush the wastes from our cells and receive nutrients. Here's a recap if you've forgotten how the Lymphatic System works. If you are ill or recovering from an operation, it's even more important to move your body. Even if you feel like the dog’s old dinner gently move every couple of hours, or at the absolute minimum do five minutes of deep breathing sessions every hour.
Right after surgery or injury, you don't feel like moving or maybe you actually can't move yourself. Please call in a friend or a nurse and ask for help. Use the Friend-Assisted Lymph Flush Exercises videos and explanations for as long as you need to.
I created Love Your Lymph Moves, a gentle flow of twelve exercises, to stimulate the lymphatic system at the three primary areas of lymph node concentration. If you're able to do these on your own, go for it. They are in an ease of flow so you can do them consecutively. That said:
If anything hurts, stop and try again in a week. If you have a new scar, DON'T overstretch the area. Skip any exercises that are going to tweak your wound, and focus on the other areas instead.
If you prefer to watch videos, I have demonstrated each move with an explanation. You'll find all those links at the bottom of this page. Otherwise, I've included the illustrations and directions as found in my book Love Your Scar.
I like to have lots of props for these movements, as they are in essence “yin”-style yoga—plus it is reassuring for the body to have support available. Keep four cushions or pillows handy, or you could buy yoga bolsters and blocks.
This first exercise, Frog's Legs, is simple for most anyone to do and is excellent for moving the lymph as it harnesses muscular contraction, breathing and gravity.
For Frog's Legs, place your feet up the wall. Engage your core or stomach muscles by sinking your belly button to your spine, then tighten the muscles and hold them strong. This helps to protect your lower back, while also giving you a sense of grounding and purpose; the very core of you is solid.
Breath: Exhale when moving the legs, whether up or down. Pause at the top or bottom and inhale.
Level One - Breath and Gravity: Keep your core engaged and breathe into your rib cage, expanding your ribs out to the sides. All you have to do is breathe.
Level Two - Friend assisted: Have your friend nearby to assist your balance if necessary. He can simply be near you to help when you want to get out of the pose, or he can assist you with bending your legs. Bend one leg at a time. Your arms are wide by your sides with your hands facing palms-down for stability. Your friend can either help move the leg or can apply gentle pressure across your hips to hold you secure. Be sensible if you're injured or recovering.
Level Three - One leg at a time: Bend one leg at a time. Your arms are wide by your sides with your hands facing palms-down for stability.
Level Four - Both legs bend: Slowly bend both knees outward, keeping the soles of the feet together to make diamond-shaped frog’s legs. Slowly slide up and down the wall from fully bent to fully straight.
Rock the Boat is a very small movement that helps warm up the smaller stabilizing muscles of the pelvis, hips, and lower abdominals.
a. Exhale and slowly curl your pelvis up, squeezing your pelvic floor muscles and letting your belly button drop further toward the floor.
b. Hold for the count of three and slowly inhale into your ribs.
c. Exhale, release the hold, and let your pelvis stretch and rock forward toward the floor.
d. Repeat ten times.
Twister massages the internal organs and can help peristalsis if you are constipated. If you had abdominal or back surgery, skip this one unless you have the okay from your doctor to do gentle twists. If you follow along on this video, it's long intentionally - it's a big breathing exercise.
a. Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor. Place one or two pillows on either side you, just below your hip where your thighs will land in the twist.
b. Keeping your knees pointing up, extend your arms comfortably to the sides, and steady yourself with your hands palms-down.
c. Take a deep breath and scootch your hips over to the right about four inches. As you exhale, gently allow both bent legs to fall to the left, resting on the pillow (or two or three).
d. Relax your stomach muscles and breathe deep into your belly. Feel the stretch in your rib cage, lower back, arms, and neck. Stay for seven deep breaths, continuing to relax deeper into the pose on each exhalation.
e. To come back to center, exhale fully, pull your belly button toward your spine, and slowly turn your knees back to center.
f. Take a full breath and repeat on the other side.
g. Do two twists to each side.
Backstroke helps stretch the chest, arms, and shoulders while activating the lymph nodes in the neck, arms, and chest. Be very careful if you’ve had chest, breast, back, arm, or shoulder surgery. If this is too much, continue with your friend-assisted Arm Sway exercise.
a. Close your eyes and imagine a beautiful ocean scene. Picture yourself having a leisurely paddle through the crystal-clear waves.
b. Bend your knees bent upward and place your feet flat on the floor, arms straight by your sides.
c. Lock your core by sinking your belly button to your spine and holding it there. Breathe up into the ribs.
d. Bring one arm slowly over your head and extend it as far back as you are able. Then reverse the movement, bringing your arm back to your side.
e. Lift the other arm up and backward as if swimming the backstroke.
f. Complete twenty strokes in total.
g. Relax your stomach muscles and breathe into the belly.
h. Roll onto your side and push yourself up onto your hands and knees.
The Cat-Cow Stretch benefits the whole spine by stretching the front of the body from the chin to the pelvis, and the entire back from the top of the head to the tailbone. Use the breath consciously with this exercise. Be mindful if you have a scar on your torso, and take care not to overstretch.
Cow: Inhale and drop your belly toward the floor, then stretch your chest forward and lift your chin.
Cat: Exhale, drop your head and arch your back up like an angry cat. Pull up on your core as you push every little bit of breath out of your body.
c. Inhale to Cow, exhale to Cat.
d. Repeat five times.
In yoga, Child's Pose is a posture of surrender and serenity. In this pose your belly and face are soft. This stretch is so good for the arms, back, and shoulders, and it will be of particular benefit for tight cording, painful connective tissue in the arms.
a. Take your knees a little wider than hip distance apart and lean your bum back to rest on your heels, keeping your fingers stretched away from you. If this is uncomfortable, place a pillow or two on top your calves and move your hips back.
b. Rest your forehead on the floor, a pillow, or a yoga block. Make sure your neck is relaxed. Close your eyes and let your face go mushy.
c. Envision your Column of Healing Light nourishing you and removing anything that is not in line with your Highest Good.
d. Take ten long, slow breaths, and exhale fully with a sigh, letting all the tension leave your body.
Move into a comfortable sitting position. If you sit on a small cushion you may find your knees and hips relax more because your pelvis is slightly raised. When sitting cross-legged, you can prop up your knees with a pillow on either side or with your knees straighter (but still a little bent). Keep your back against a wall if sitting up straight is difficult.
Seaweed helps open the sides of the body from the armpit to the hip. Have a yoga block or pillow to either side of you if reaching the floor is too much of a stretch.
a. On an inhale, reach your right hand out to the side and place it on the floor about a foot away from your right hip.
b. Exhale and lean over to the right, raising your left arm overhead until you feel a stretch from your hip to your fingertips.
c. Inhale for a count of four.
d. Exhale and slowly change sides.
e. Try to keep both butt cheeks on the floor. Gracefully float your arms through the air as if they were sprays of seaweed rolling gently on the waves.
f. Repeat for a total of ten times, five on each side.
The Seated Twist is similar to the lying Twister, but it has a different action on the hips and groin because of the seated position. This move mobilizes the internal organs gently, improving digestion and elimination while freeing possible rib adhesions. As with Twister, go very gently if you have had abdominal or back surgery.
a. Sit on a little cushion in a cross-legged position, and inhale.
b. On the exhale, twist your whole torso gently to the left placing your left hand on the floor or a block directly behind your spine.
c. Place your right hand on your left knee to help hold the position.
d. Gently turn your head to look over your left shoulder.
e. Take two deep breaths and return to center. Have a relaxing breath.
f. Then take a deep breath, and on the exhale twist to the right, with your right hand behind the spine and left hand on the right knee, looking over the right shoulder.
g. Take two refreshing breaths and return to center.
h. Repeat twice more either side.
Stretching the neck with Neck Rolls activates the cervical lymph nodes, which drain the lymph in the head, and releases tension in the shoulders and any restrictions in the chest and front neck muscles.
a. Roll your shoulders back so you feel your shoulder blades flatten against your back. Engage your core to straighten your spine, and actually sit on your hands, palms-up, so you are grabbing your bum, keeping your shoulders away from your ears. You can also sit against the wall if this helps your posture.
b. Allow your head to drop gently forward and let it rock a little bit side to side. Gently roll your head to the right so that your ear is over your shoulder. Take a couple of breaths.
c. Slowly roll the head forward and to the center, then roll to the left. Keep going side to side, nice and slow.
d. Undoubtedly there will be some spots that feel tighter than others. When you find your neck feels “stuck” at some point, pause there and breathe. The weight of your head gently stretches your neck. Often you will feel a release in the jaw and ear.
e. Try not to let your shoulders creep up. Keep them down and rolled back so the neck receives the full benefit of the stretch.
Scratch your back opens up the whole front of your body and give your arms a good stretch.
a. Holding a belt or dishcloth in your left hand, raise your left arm over your head, bend at the elbow, and reach your hand down (still holding the belt) as though to scratch between your shoulder blades.
b. Twist your right arm up behind the back into a chicken wing, or as if you were scratching the middle of your back. Grab the dangling belt with your right hand.
c. On an exhale, gently pull the top arm down to its maximum stretch, keeping the spine long and straight. Inhale deeply, and on the exhale gently pull the bottom arm up.
e. Repeat the stretch for the upper arm and lower arm three times.
f. Now creep your hands toward each other on the belt to see how close you can get to touching your fingers. When you are as far along on the belt as you can be, take two deep breaths.
g. To release, drop the belt completely, and slide your bottom hand down toward your bum before untwisting it. Shake your arms, do a couple of shoulder shrugs, and repeat on the other side. You will usually find that one side is more flexible than the other. You can stay in the stretch longer for the stiffer side; over time your hands may meet in the middle.
Opera Singer helps mobility between the ribs and deep into the armpits, improving lymphatic flow through the torso. Moving the arms in opposite directions from each other gives a diagonal stretch to the chest and ribs.
a. To lock your core when standing, exhale, pull up on your pubic muscles, and feel the connection to your lower abs. Keep them engaged but not clamped down tight.
b. Take a deep inhale, and as you exhale stretch one arm up high, looking at your hand as though you were on stage singing your heart out. Move the other arm down and away in the opposite direction.
c. Inhale deeply, stretching all the muscles between the ribs, as though you were about to hit the high note of the aria.
d. Exhale and change sides, repeating five times on each side.
Door-Frame Stretch strongly opens the chest. After breast or heart surgery there can be a tendency to naturally and instinctively roll in the shoulders to protect the scar, but this can lead to restrictions. Using the doorway as a stabilizer gives you confidence to stretch.
a. Place your hands or forearms on the door frame at chest height. Inhale deeply, puffing out your chest.
b. As you exhale, take a very small step forward, feeling the pull in your chest and shoulder muscles.
c. Inhale deeply and slowly.
d. If this amount of stretch is okay, exhale and take another very small step forward.
e. Keep going until you reach your comfortable limit. Then stay here and just breathe, filling your lungs deeply until you feel the stretch on your entire chest area.
Spider Up The Wall is our final exercise, and it helps flush the lymph nodes in the armpits and chest area.
a. Face the wall and place your hand as high up as you are able.
b. Crawl the spider (your fingers) up the wall and allow all the small muscles in the arm, chest, and shoulder to gently open and release.
c. When you reach your limit, inhale for a count of four and very gently press your hand into the wall, activating your arm muscles.
d. As you exhale, release the tension on your arm and try to creep your fingers up again.
e. Go as high as you comfortably can, doing the little presses in between. This helps your body release tight muscles.
f. Repeat on the other side.
If you have time you can do another set of Frog's Legs to finish. Nice Job!