The lymphatic system is our first line of defense again illness: once the invading forces gain access inside the body, it is here that the lymphocytes mobilize to neutralize the invaders.

Yoga has long been recognized for its ability to boost the immune system, not just on the physical, but also on the psychic level - our ability to keep healthy not only the body, but also the mind.

What is the lymphatic system and how can one activate and nourish it? Lymph is a clear, slightly yellowish liquid derived from blood, and it contains white blood cells, lymphocytes, as well as wastes and debris of cells, bacteria, and protein. There are many lymph channels and nodes in the body that "filter" the blood, but they are especially collected in the groins, armpits, neck, and up the sides of the head. It is important to remember that it flows just beneath the skin, and it flows upwards.

So if you think about it, lymph has many properties in common with Prana, the life force in the body. It is an upward moving force, it protects us from disease, it is present everywhere in the body, and just as a robust lymphatic system gives us long life and radiant health, so does a robust Prana.

The lymphatic drainage of various organs is important in diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of cancer. The lymphatic system, because of its physical proximity to many tissues of the body, is responsible for carrying cancerous cells between the various parts of the body in a process called metastasis. The intervening lymph nodes can trap the cancer cells. If they are not successful in destroying the cancer cells the nodes may become sites of secondary tumors. (1) Now this type of massage is counter indicated for active malignant cancers, undiagnosed lumps or tumors that haven't been diagnosed by your doctor. For a complete list of counter indications, click here.

All Yoga benefits lymph because it soothes the nervous system and improves circulation through movement and breathing. However, there are additional simple yet effective methods you can use whenever you feel a virus is coming on, or someone near you is sick.

  • first and foremost - reduce stress, so that your body can devote more energy to support the immune function. It is okay to say "no" to extra obligations, because if you don't, your body will do for you what your will power could not - make you stay in bed with a virus. This is what I mean by psychic immunity - your ability to remain calm during times of emotional, mental, or physical upheaval, to learn and to apply basic yet essential self-care methods.
  • in your Yoga practice - slow down. Move on exhalation, while inhaling in place. Any movement, even backbends, can be done on an exhale, and if you practice a Sun Salute, for example, with every transition done on an exhale, you will slow down and achieve a wonderful, relaxed, meditative state.
  • keep your neck in proper alignment - neutral curve, so it remains free of tension and the lymph can flow.
  • do poses in a way that applies minimum pressure on the skin to keep the lymphatic vessels (channels) just under the skin flowing freely.
  • add mild inversions - Down Dog, Bridge, Viparita Karani, to facilitate the flow of circulation from the bottom up.
  • End your session with a gentle massage:

Upward strokes from the armpits, across the chest, up the throat, under the chin and up the sides of the neck

Upward strokes from the back of the neck, up the sides of the neck, behind the ears and up the scalp

When massaging, apply minimum pressure - you do not want to move the skin as in regular massage. Just barely making contact, let the touch be very gentle.

Since Thymus Gland and the Spleen are also part of the lymphatic system, you can incorporate gentle "percussion massage". Tap very lightly!

Tap on the breastbone to stimulate circulation to the Thymus gland. Thymus is the primary lymphoid organ that produces T-cells and lymphocytes.


Tap on the sides of the ribcage, to stimulate the Spleen. The spleen synthesizes antibodies in its white pulp and removes antibody-coated bacteria and antibody-coated blood cells by way of blood and lymph node circulation.

All of these gentle self-massage techniques can be done sitting or lying down. If you are lying down, put your feet up on a chair, and elevate your pelvis on a folded blanket, to stimulate the circulation from the lower body to the upper body.

It is not uncommon to experience salivation after doing this massage, and it is a good sign - your body is expelling toxins into your digestive tract. Sometimes the saliva has a strange or even unpleasant taste to it, if you have been particularly toxed or have been taking medication. Drink plenty of warm water afterwards.

Let's stay healthy together!


Anna M.