The simplest way to stimulate your lymphatic system-diaphragmatic breathing
I get asked a lot how to simulate your lymphatic system at home. I want to talk about the easiest way that requires no equipment and can be done any place and at any time. I will dedicate another blog post in the upcoming months on many more ways to stimulate your lymphatic system as well, so stay tuned for that. But today, lets talk about diaphragmatic breathing.
I want you to pause for a second and take a deep breath, I am talking a REALLY deep breath. What just happened? I would dare to say that your whole upper body and shoulders moved upwards in an overexaggerated way. Did you know that as a nation, most of us actually breath the wrong way. If you look at infants and young children, you will notice that when they breath there is no movement in the shoulders, but the movement can actually be seen at the belly. This is because our diaphragm, which is the muscle of respiration, is actually located just below the rib cage. When we inhale, the diaphragm contracts drawing the thoracic cavity down and allows the lungs to expand and draw air in. When we exhale, the diaphragm relaxes and expands, pushing the thoracic cavity upwards and forcing the lungs expel air. The action of breathing is actually taking place in our abdomen. The experience of using our shoulders to breath is a learned behavior. (It is true that we have accessory muscles in our upper body that can aid in forced breathing.)
So I want you to try it again. Place a hand on your belly just above your belly button. Breath in through your nose and focus on making your hand move outwards. Next breath out through your mouth and focus on drawing your belly button towards your spine and your hand will sink in. This is diaphragmatic breathing. See the illustration below for a great handout.
Diaphragmatic breathing has a vital role in the lymphatic system. Lymph nodes do not have their own muscular layer, therefore they rely on pressure changes and manual stimulation to empty their contents. Lymph nodes are the garbage collectors of our bodies, they filter out all the crud, crap and debris and decide whether the fluid can be re-used or sent on for elimination. Blocked or clogged lymph nodes cause 100x the resistance to fluid flow, resulting in stagnant fluid build up and a traffic jam of fluid so to speak. Also, thinking of the anatomy of a single lymph node, each node has multiple vessels leading into it, but only 1 vessel leading away, which also reduces fluid flow. Keeping your lymph nodes clear and flowing at optimal speed is vital for our fluid balance and waste transport capabilities. Just by breathing deeply and changing the intra-abdominal pressure, this causes a "wringing" effect on the lymph nodes, which stimulates flow. The pictures below show the thoracic duct which is a large lymphatic vessel deep in our abdomen that drains the lower body, it is impacted drastically by diaphragmatic breathing. You can also see some examples of the vast amount of lymph nodes (the green bean shaped organs) in and around the abdominal cavity. Everybody has about 500-700 lymph nodes in their entire body, half of them, 200-300 are located in the abdomen. That alone should be a reason to promote correct breathing.
Other options of breathing patterns/add ons include:
~Smell the rose, blow out the candle
~Pursed lip breathing/birthday candle blowing
~Fog the mirror, which really induces increased abdominal pressure/compression
~4-7-8 breathing (inhale for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds. Repeat this sequence 3-4 times)
~Add a belly rub during the exhale to increase pressure
~Place a pillow to the stomach and squeeze the pillow during exhale
~Perform a mini crunch during exhale
All of these are examples that can help stimulate the abdominal lymph nodes for maximal lymphatic flow and clearing of lymph nodes.[