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Yoga for Lymphoedema

Yoga for Lymphoedema

By now, most of us are aware that Yoga is good for us. The effects of stress on the body and on mental health cannot be denied. The need for some kind of physical activity is also a given and more and more of the population are turning their back on drink-culture and exploring the world of yoga and fitness.

So why is Yoga so good for us and how can Yoga impact the lives of those living with Lymphoedema?

Well let’s start with the Lymphatic System. In lay-mans terms, the lymphatic vessels are similar to the blood vessels, and in fact they run alongside the blood vessels, collecting any waste products discarded by the blood vessels or discarded by the body tissues (muscle fibres and so on) that the blood vessels have not been able to pick up. So in a sense, the lymphatic system is a clean-up system of the body. While the blood vessels have the heart to pump blood around the body, the lymphatic vessels don’t have this. So how does it work?

The lymphatic system relies on the contracting and relaxing of the muscles in the body to act as a pump, to help move lymphatic fluid, or lymph, where it needs to go. While the rhythmic pumping of blood through the blood vessels helps a little, we really need the stronger action of the muscles to get this fluid moving.

Deep breathing also acts as a pump for the lymphatic system. The diaphragm is a large sheet of muscle that basically cuts the body into two halves. Think of this sheet of muscle just under your rib cage. When at rest, the diaphragm takes on a dome-like shape, pushing up towards the lungs. When we inhale deeply and expand the lungs, while also expanding the belly, it’s actually the diaphragm doing this. It’s stretching out flat, creating space in the chest, pulling air in to fill the lungs up. When you relax and exhale again, the diaphragm returns to it’s resting place, pushing up towards the lungs again and expelling the air from the lungs. This expansion and collapse of the chest/lungs acts as a pump for the lymphatic system.

The lymphatic system has other very important functions too. The lymph nodes detect foreign invaders and instruct the body on how to respond to such threats. So you could say that the lymphatic system is the command centre of the immune system.

If the lymphatic system is running under par, then we are in trouble. The body’s ability to efficiently remove waste products and to detect and defend against infections is compromised. Fluid can build up and stagnate around the tissues causing all sorts of problems. We really don’t want this situation.

The lymphatic system can become compromised due to excess weight, illness, genetic factors and through surgery or other invasive events that damage or remove lymph vessels and lymph nodes. This can lead to oedema (swelling) in one or more areas of the body and this can have an impact on mobility, which in turn can lead to less exercise, which increases the pressure on the lymphatic system as we have no pump to help get things moving again. It’s a downward spiral!

And this is where yoga comes in…

Deep, diaphragmatic breathing is a fundamental part of yoga. And we’ve just seen how important deep breathing is for the lymphatic system. But in addition to this, the calming effects of yoga-breathing help to alleviate stress and promote a sense of wellbeing. And let’s be frank, if your body has been through the challenges of surgery, injury and/or unexplained oedema, you’re gonna need a bit of relaxation and calming of the nerves! The worry of the unexplained can take it’s toll, it’s no joke to go through all that stress. And Lymphedema often goes undiagnosed for years.

A yoga class involving gentle movements, designed for those with restricted mobility due to oedema or due to the use of compression garments, is ideal to help get the muscles working again and get the lymphatic fluid moving. Not all yoga postures and practices are going to feel safe, comfortable and, well, doable to those with restricted movement… And that’s why a class designed specifically for this purpose is ideal.

How about a yoga class taught by a professionally trained, qualified and insured MLD/Lymphoedema therapist, who is simultaneously certified and highly experienced as a yoga instructor? Someone who knows the challenges you face through direct experience in treating this condition? Well now you can…

Yoga for Lymphoedema will be coming to River Holistic in the new year. Contact me with any queries and to register your interest for classes starting in January.

Aideen Schweppe BA, MLD (Vodder), Dip. ITEC

Beautiful Life

Supporting and inspiring your to live your best life.

Ph: 085 1528969

E: aideen.schweppe@gmail.com

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