Today we will move through a flow that is critical to your immunity! Known as the drainage system of the body, the lymphatic system is composed of tissues and organs that help get rid of toxins and waste. This system helps to move lymph, fluid that contains white blood cells, which help fight off infection and disease.
Within our bodies, the lymphatic system is always working, but can be enhanced by certain activities. For instance, lymph moves from our feet toward our neck – working against gravity. So it’s important we spend time “upside down” to encourage more efficiency in this drainage process.
For today’s practice, please be sure that you do not have any contraindications for the postures as several poses will be slight inversions. You can always change the pose to work best for your body’s needs.
Props that might be helpful…
- Bolster / firm pillow
- Block / sturdy book
- Stay hydrated. Hydration is key to our immunity. Make sure to drink plenty of water before and after today’s practice.
- Loosen up. Wearing loose-fitting clothing and no jewelry can help improve the effectiveness of the following sequence as it allows for optimal blood flow and for the skin to breathe easy. I’m wearing more form-fitting clothing in this sequence so you can see the postures more clearly.
- Focus on deep, steady breathing. As always in yoga, you want to make sure the breath is moving. Especially when practicing with your immune system in mind, your breath is so important.
Supported Fish (4 min) + Neck Release (1 min)
Begin practice with a firm support (like a block) snug between the shoulder blades to elevate the heart and drop the head back toward the floor. You can use additional props to support the back of the head if the extension through the neck is too intense. Arms and legs and take up as much space and whatever shape they are craving. Allow your body some time to settle in here. This type of pose can be quite different than how we carry ourselves through the day. Focus on breathing deep, quality breaths into the areas you feel this most. Your breath will calm the mind and body and allow for you to truly relax.
Once the 4 minutes is up, gently interlace the hands behind the back of the head like a hammock. Slowly lift the head, letting the hands hold up the weight of the skull, drawing the chin toward the chest. Hold in center or move guide the head toward the left and right to explore the sensation a bit further.
Seated Shoulder Rolls (1 min) + EFT at the Thymus Gland (1 min)
Make your way to a comfortable seated position. Place the fingertips onto the shoulders and start to draw the elbows toward one another in front of the chest as you allow the upper back to relax and the head to drop a bit. On an inhale, lift the elbows upward, then outward like wings, and finally drop them downward as you exhale before repeating the circles several times more. Switch and go the other way after about 30 seconds.
Let the hands relax to the lap and the shoulders settle. When ready, begin to take one or two fingers to the sternum at the center of the chest and begin to gently tap for one minute. This is a way to stimulate acupressure at the thymus gland, which is a lymphoid organ that produces critical cells for our immune systems. It is also believed that acupressure at this point encourages Qi to move through all of the meridian lines of the body and to remove blockages.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) is the technical name for this “tapping” practice and as it aligns not just with our physical bodies, but also our energetic bodies. EFT can provide deep connection to cultivating intention and self acceptance. If you’d like, consider repeating the mantra “I am happy / I am healthy / I am whole” as you tap. This may deepen the benefits!
Melted Heart (3 min)
Come into a table position on the hands and knees and begin to walk the hands forward as you melt the heart toward the earth. You can support this shape with your props as desired. A little pillow under the chest might be just right for you or perhaps settling your chest to the earth feels nice. Child’s pose is another alternative to this posture if the inversion element is a bit much. Rest the forehead to the earth or if it is comfortable for the neck, the chin can rest to the ground instead.
When done, sit back to the heels for a child’s pose and drape the arms back toward the feet to let the shoulders settle a bit.
Toe Squat + Underarm Massage (3 min)
Rise up to table and curl all 10 toes under. Begin to sit the hips back toward the heels adding more weight to the feet along the way. You can keep with the hands on the floor to gauge the pressure with ease or find your way upright and relax the hands to the lap. Spend the first minute allowing your feet to feel the pressure. Create a smooth and steady rhythm with your breath to alleviate the discomfort you feel.
With the remaining two minutes, one side at a time, extend one arm out while placing the other arm’s fist into the armpit region. Let the extended arm relax and then gently roll the fist around in a circular motion to loosen up congested lymph and to encourage release. Do one minute per side.
Table Top Feet Taps + Down Dog Ankle Rolls (1 min)
As a counter pose for the feet, come forward back to table and uncurl the toes. Vibrantly tap the feet to the earth to help release the pressure from your toe squat. Stay here and roll out the ankles or push up into downward dog and roll the feet around in circles on the floor to help counter the pressure of that intense dorsiflexion you just applied in the previous pose.
Dangle (3 min)
From dog, begin to walk the feet up to the hands at the top of your mat. Rise up about halfway out of a forward bend to position the legs as wide as you prefer and place any props beneath you that you’d like to have. When ready, fold over the legs and allow the spine to round. Avoid locking out the knees to keep your balance steady. I typically prefer to keep props under me to hold onto so I don’t feel the need to hold onto extra muscle activity. If the inversion is not serving you, you can simply come to a seated forward bend instead.
It’s important to allow the head to completely relax here. As you settle in, perhaps nod the head yes and no or massage the base of the skull. Soften through the jaw and brow line as well.
Squat (3 min)
When time is up, rise up halfway again and widen the feet preparing for a squat. Align the toes outward and heels inward. Begin to sit the hips toward the floor. You can place a prop of your choice under the hips if you’d like to sit onto something. The hands can come together at the heart or find another hand position that feels nice. Focus on lengthening the spine and allowing the pelvis to hang heavy.
If you feel a lot in the knees or the heels aren’t able to reach the ground, try to roll a blanket in the crease of the knees or under the heels to alleviate discomfort. If there is any pain, find an alternative! Butterfly is a nice option if you need another pose.
If time allows, repeat dangle and squat one more time.
Supported Bridge + Leg Rotation (4 min)
Make your way to the back. Take a moment to feel the firm ground beneath you and enjoy a few cleansing breaths (in through your nose, out through your mouth) to help you let go a bit more. Eventually hug the knees to the chest and slowly rock the hips side to side to massage the lower back.
When ready, place the feet to the ground and elevate the hips. You can place a block or my personal favorite – a firm bolster, under the sacrum in the low back. Spend 3 minutes here. When your time is up, begin to elevate the feet toward the sky and start to rotate the legs from the leg all the way to the ankle to encourage that final flush of the lymph.
Savasana (10 min)
Rest is a pivotal part of our immunity. So this time really matters! Find a position you want to rest in to close your practice. Utilize props and lighting options that will enhance your relaxation and enjoy a nice long savasana. The breath can return to its normal pattern as you simply allow the earth to uphold your strong, capable and healthy body for these few minutes of your day. Notice where you feel a sense of fluidity and connection, warmth and almost a humming of your energy aligned.