If I sat and wrote out out all of the benefits associated with exercising, we’d both be here all day. But one more thing that I recently learned can be added to the endless laundry list of “why working out is good for you,” after “building strength,” “boosting your mood,” and “helping with sleep”? It aids in lymphatic drainage.
Think of the lymphatic system as a series of pipes that removes toxins and waste from your body. It does the job just fine on its own, but we can do certain things—like getting lymphatic drainage massages or taking certain supplements—to help it move more efficiently.
While there’s been a whole lot of conversation around whether or not lymphatic drainage—AKA detoxing your lymphatic system—is totally necessary, that hasn’t stopped people from trying all sorts of things in its pursuits. You can get lymphatic drainage massages, pop certain supplements, and even jade rolling is purported to help with the process. If you’re committed to the cause, these workout moves are said to help, too.
On a trampoline
Consider this the most fun way ever to help get your lymph system moving. “Bounce is more effective than other workouts for lymphatic drainage because of the effects of gravity and your body’s muscle contractions while on the trampoline,” says Aly Giampolo, founder of the ness, a studio in New York City that offers trampoline classes “You can achieve movements that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to without bouncing, which increases circulation of these lymph fluids.” She adds that because the trampoline absorbs the impact of your movements, it makes it easier on your joints than some other cardio moves that could also help with lymphatic drainage. She suggests trying these three moves:
1. Bounce down: “Bouncing down” is the basis for most moves on the trampoline, and is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. “In this movement, the body is in a squat position with heels driving down into the trampoline. Use the core to lift knees into the center while keeping the upper body low,” explains Giampolo. In other words, jump on the trampoline, squeezing your core and glutes while you do it, and think about bouncing down instead of jumping up.
2. Surf twist: Surfs up, lymphatic drainage down. In the same form that you’d use for bouncing down, twist your lower body to the right, then back to the center, then to the left, and repeat, keeping your shoulders squared to the center the entire time.
3. High bounce: “This is what you would normally imagine when you think of jumping on a trampoline,” says Giampolo. It’s essentially the opposite of bouncing down, so that you’re pushing your body up and away from the trampoline.
On the mat
“Yoga is an effective practice for lymph drainage because is stimulates all the systems of the body from the nervous system to the respiratory system to the lymphatic system,” explains Kajuan Douglas, founder of Merge New York. “Yoga is a full-body workout and healing practice when appropriately utilized for a specific purpose. The poses of yoga complimented by the breath work support the filtration of the body. It can stimulate the removal of waste, water, and toxins.” Here, he shares three poses to help get the job done.
1. Legs up the wall: Lying on your back, extend your legs up toward the ceiling, and rest the back of your heels and legs on the wall.
2. Apanasana (wind relieving pose): While laying on you back, hug your knees into your chest while squeezing your inner thighs together and contracting the low abdomen towards the back of the body. If possible, try drawing the forehead towards your knees.
3. Modified sun salutations: “Modified sun salutations are a great way to rhythmically flush the body,” says Douglas. “This invites the individual to move at a pace that works for them. The series of lunges and forward folds will help circulation, regulations, and filtration through the linking breath and movement together in this order.” Try this sequence: mountain pose to upward hands pose to standing forward fold to low lunge to downward-facing dog to down dog split to low lunge to standing forward fold to upward hands pose to mountain pose.
In your living room
You can also get your lymph system moving simply by stretching. In this situation you’ll want to look toward dynamic stretching, which unlike static stretching, will get you moving and help move around lymph. “This means that the muscles and tissues that the lymphatic system is supporting are getting more blood flow, which ultimately helps to move the lymphatic fluids out of the system faster,” says Jeff Brannigan, the program director at Stretch*d. “In general, a healthy lymphatic system helps the body heal faster as the vital organs involved in detox are working more efficiently. Stretching helps promote this.” Try these three moves:
1. Hello hammies: Place your foot into a loop or strap. Lift your leg until your thigh is perpendicular to the surface you’re lying on, and gradually extend your leg by contracting your quadriceps—the goal is to lock your knee and fully extend your leg. If you can’t reach the full extension, you may have to lower the angle of your leg from your hip to make things easier. Be sure not to pull the leg into position to avoid irritating the back of your knee.
2. Smooth walk*r 1: Place the ball of your foot into your loop or strap. To get the pressure off of your back, you may want to bend your other knee and place the foot flat on the surface. Flex your foot by pointing your toes toward your chest, and use the rope for gentle assistance at the end of the movement. After a brief stretch, relax by pointing your foot toward the ceiling, and repeat.
3. Smooth walk*r 2: Sit with one leg resting straight and flat in front of you, and bend our other knee at a 90 degree angle with your foot flat. Reach down and grab the bottom of that foot with both hands, or if you need to modify, with a loop or strap. Keeping your heel on the surface, flex your foot and bring it up toward your chest, using your hands for assistance.
Another way to get that lymphatic drainage happening? At the spa. Watch the time one of our editors tried a lymphatic drainage massage for herself:
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