Stretching promotes the muscle movement required to pump lymphatic fluid through our system and with it all the wastes and toxins that can otherwise build up because of our sedentary lifestyles.
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Simple stretches to improve lymphatic health
Whilst we would just love it if everyone could have a Body Ballancer® session two or three times a week, we realise that right now this is something we can only dream of! So, to help keep the lymph flowing until we reach this Nirvana, here are a number of simple stretches that will promote muscle contraction and movement, thus stimulating lymphatic flow.
The first four exercises are the most important, as they focus on the neck and shoulder area, a part of the body that is especially significant, being the location of the upper thoracic area. This is where all the lymphatic fluid collected from around the body finally drains back into the bloodstream via the two large veins at either side of the neck under the collarbone. Stretching and exercising this area will help to open these important vessels, enabling the effective return of lymph into the bloodstream.
1. Neck roll side-to-side
Lay flat on a surface in a comfortable position. Take a deep breath and, as you exhale, let your head roll to the right just as far as it wants to go. When this position is reached, inhale again and bring your head back to the centre. As you exhale this breath, let you head roll to the left as far as it wants to go, then breathe in, returning to the centre. Repeat 6-10 times.
2. Shoulder roll
Lift your shoulders up and move them in a circular motion 5 times in a front-to-back motion, then repeat in the opposite direction. Do this 6 times in total to loosen up the area. Most people hold a lot of tension in this part of the body, which can constrict the lymphatic vessels, and this exercise will encourage a gentle opening and improvement of lymph flow.
3. Head tilt
Slowly move the right side of the head down towards the shoulder as far as is comfortable. If necessary, you can use your right hand to gently improve the stretch. Hold for a few seconds then bring your head back up. Repeat the tilt with the left side of the head. Do this 6-10 times
4. Shoulder shrug
This exercise may be performed in a standing or sitting position.
Ensuring your spine is straight, take a deep breath and lift your shoulders up as far as they will comfortably go, hold for one beat, then let the shoulders drop as you exhale. This will release any tension in the shoulder which is a part of the body that can be adversely affected by stress, and is therefore often tense and stiff. Repeat 6-10 times depending on the amount of tension being held.
5. Pelvic tilt
This is a good exercise, as it works on the large concentration of lymphatic tissue located in the abdominal area.
Lay on a flat surface and bend your knees slightly, with your feet flat on the ground about hip-width apart. Using your abdominal muscles, press your lower back down into the flat surface and hold for a count of ten. Release the contraction and relax for a few moments. Repeat up to 10 times.
6. Leg flexing
This exercise will stimulate the popliteal lymph nodes that are located at the back of the knee and the inguinal nodes located in the groin area.
Laying flat, slide one leg up so the knee is flexed as far as is comfortable then slowly return it to the floor. Repeat on the other side and do each leg 5-10 times.
7. Ankle pumps
This exercise will help reduce any swelling in the foot and ankle by encouraging lymphatic fluid to drain upwards and away from the area.
Laying flat, extend your ankle, pointing the toes away from your body. Inhale and flex the ankle towards you and on the exhale, extend the foot again.