Livin’ That Lymph Life

Having gone through my own share of C treatments- chemos, surgeries, and radiation sessions- I feel that I should have been more informed about the oh-so-important Lymphatic System. But the only real info I had was that surgeries (where lymph nodes were removed) and radiation treatments can cause lymphedema- swelling due to the altered flow of lymphatic fluid.  It’s something that never goes away and can have a significantly negative impact on one’s quality of life.

It wasn’t until I attended the Be Well Yoga for Cancer Recovery Teacher Training that I truly started to understand why we ALL should care about this amazing part of our bodies- diagnosis or not.  I’m so impressed by the lymphatic system that I find myself constantly fitting fun facts and ways to improve lymph movement into convos with my yoga students, my friends, family members, strangers… really, anyone who will listen… and now you!

The lymph system is pretty much the body’s sewage system. It’s like a one-way highway- a network of tiny channels that form a passage for lymph fluid to travel throughout the body- with stopping points (lymph nodes) along the way that act like trash cans.  In the lymph nodes, lymphocytes and antibodies hang out to sort through waste, searching for and removing toxic cells, dead cells, bacterias, viruses, and other foreign elements.  The lymph system then irrigates potential threats out of the body via body waste.  If the potentially dangerous cells are not removed from the body, the lymph node enlarges as a sign of infection and the rest of the immune system is notified and comes to kick some ass.

Lymph nodes are located in places like the mouth, nasal passages, neck, arm pits, and groin areas. But the largest and main lymph node is the thoracic duct.  It’s located behind the heart and lungs along the spinal column and runs from the top of the lumbar spine to the base of the neck.

So, why did I just completely nerd out on the lymphatic system?  Because all of that info was totally fascinating, right? Mind blown (poof!) And because, as important as it is to our health and immunity, this system does not have a “pump” to keep this crazy-necessary fluid moving. Instead, the lymphatic system relies on muscles, movement, and gravity to get lymph fluid moving.  Nuts, right? So it’s up to us!

Now you’re thinking “But how? How can I get this super important stuff moving?”  Oh, man. I’m glad you asked!

Breath

Simply by breathing we stimulate the flow of the lymph, and through full, deep breaths we can encourage the flow to be both cleansing and powerful. Full breaths create muscular movement and massage the thoracic duct.

Diaphragmatic (deep) breathing:

Begin by breathing in slowly through your nose, pushing the stomach out. The chest should remain relatively still on the inhale.  Slowly let your breath release out through your mouth. Full and slow diaphragmatic breathing for even just 5-10 rounds will circulate lymph fluid and oxygenate blood.

Before starting any of the exercises below…

Begin with a few rounds of diaphragmatic breathing.  Then bring your ear to your shoulder and on the opposite side, place your palm or flat fingers above the collar bone on the side of the neck.  Gently stretch the skin down while counting like a waltz~ 1-2-3 (about 5-10 times). Repeat on the other side.

Think of it this way, if you don’t open these main drains before getting the lymph moving, it would be like pressing from the bottom of a toothpaste tube with the top on… it will have no where to go. 

Movement & Yoga

The lymphatic system depends largely on muscle activity for its circulation. Though, we tend to spend a lot of time sitting, whether it’s at a desk, in a car, on the couch… and all of this sitting can lead to stagnation.  Fortunately, even minor movement can help.   Remembering to take breaks throughout the day to walk around and stretch can be really beneficial for your lymph system AND your overall wellbeing.

Yoga can help maintain lymph fluid movement via gravity (inversions), utilizing body positioning to reverse pooling of lymph fluid in the lower extremities.  Yoga also increases lymph flow with postures that cause large muscles to contract and relax- encouraging lymph to move through the body.  

Legs up the… whatever you can find. Just get them up!

Gentle self-lymphatic massages can be added to various poses to aid the flow of lymph fluid. Try very gently running/dragging the fingers from wrists towards armpits on the top, sides, and bottoms of arms- massaging near the armpits (think- while in Warrior II), as well as very gently dragging fingers from ankles to pelvic area (on all sides of the legs) and massaging around groin / hip creases (think- Staff Pose).

Lymph massage… don’t forget to massage the hip creases!

Dry Brushing

Dry skin brushing also promotes lymphatic drainage and is said to include additional benefits like refreshed skin and reduction of cellulite.  It’s best done few minutes before a shower, using a natural bristle brush.

Stand in your bathtub or shower so all of the falling dead skin doesn’t land on your super sweet bath mat.  Using long sweeping motions, begin brushing at your feet, moving upwards towards your heart.  All brush motions should go towards the heart area. No need to press hard because the lymph system is close to the surface of the skin.  After you have brushed your whole body, hop in the shower.

Dry brushing is best done naked… but this ain’t that kinda site

Fun Facts:

  • About 4 liters of lymph fluid is moved through the body and eliminated each day!
  • The body has between 501 and 700 lymph nodes- varying from person to person.
  • Where there are veins, there are lymphatic vessels.  The cardiovascular system and lymphatic system run parallel to each other .
  • The thymus is a super important part of the lymphatic system.  It is where the T-cells are generated which help to destroy the naughty cells that get flushed out.
  • The thymus is located behind the sternum, between the lungs and can be stimulated by tapping or softly thumping in that area 20-30 times.

Sooooo…. Have I peaked your interest in the lymph system?  Are you as fascinated as I am?

Are you ready to live that Lymph Life?

The contents of this website are for informational purposes only and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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Just Because You Can

There’s this saying- ‘Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’- which I usually reserve for the dickwads going 65 in the carpool lane.  Turns out, it’s another line I spout out that I should listen to myself.

I am finally recovered from my sinus surgery, which took much longer than anticipated.  I think I said it before, I just ended up being one of the few who did not tolerate it well.  While I should have been taking it easy and listening to my body, I was pushing myself to do my normal tasks and then some… because I could. I was exhausting myself during the day, unable to sleep at night, and overall- a real “peach” to be around.  {insert eye roll and face palm}

Once I started to take it easy, I started to feel better.  Go figure.  And now that the swelling has gone away, I am really happy that I did it. Being able to breathe through my nose is pretty exciting.  So is having the ability to hear out of BOTH ears.  This gal gives the final results two thumbs up.

In other medical news, I had a CT scan on Monday of my pelvis, abdomen, and chest to follow up on a hemangioma on my liver which was found about 6 months ago.  I didn’t tell anyone about the scan because, honestly, I didn’t want to think about it. And sometimes avoidance is my coping skill of choice. 🤷🏻‍♀️

The results came in yesterday afternoon and my scan showed no evidence of disease. And my liver only shows a small fatty spot.  HELLS..  TO.. THE.. YEAH!

My brain is now free to prepare for my final weekend of Be Well Yoga for Cancer Recovery Teacher Training, to finalize a couple of upcoming workshops I’m holding, and to hopefully get re-inspired with a project I had been working on pre-surgery.

What are some things you are working on?  Or would like to begin?  I feel a vision board party should be in order soon. Yeah? You in?

Fun fact: Growing up, my mom’s license plate was BizzyBZ 🐝

Simplify

A while back I wrote myself a note.

I do this often.  If you were to look inside my purse… car… pocket… desk drawer… you’d find several pieces of scrap paper or sticky notes.  Sometimes with reminders, sometimes to-do’s, sometimes blog ideas, sometimes I just frantically jot down something that a person has said or lines from an audio book or podcast that really resonated with me.

But this note was different.  It was a question to myself.  It asked “Is it possible to live a simple life while being a busy and working mom?”

I scribbled it down one day while at work and stuck it to the back of my phone so I knew I’d revisit it later.  I had asked myself this question because I truly didn’t know the answer. At that time, I felt like I was failing at being a good mother and wife.  Overall, I felt like I was failing at life.  I should mention, this question came about during one of my “stress spells”- a time where I had spread myself too thin and the stress began to get the best of me.  During these “stress spells” I usually begin sliding down a slippery slope.  Stress becomes anxiety.  The anxiety becomes fear.  And the fear becomes deep sadness.  Eventually I find my way out, only to write myself similar notes later on.

But that’s a whole different deal.

Back to the question… I didn’t have an answer for myself, so what did I do?  I consulted Google.  Of course there was no simple answer but the searching made me sit with the question and actually begin to work it over in my head.  I started to make a list of things that are important to me and ways to give them the attention they deserve, while really looking at things that are not worthy of so much of my energy, in order to start living a simpler and happier life.

Like I said I would- eventually I found my way out of the stress spell but my list stuck with me and I found myself actually taking {tiny} steps to live a simpler life.  Then came a little health scare (things are OK) and it was the swift kick in the ass I needed to really focus on simplifying and reevaluating what’s really important to me.  It all really came down to my hub, my core, my heart center- John and the kids. Hopefully, living a simple lifestyle will allow me to be a happier and more patient mother, a nicer wife, and a more present person with less stress and distractions.  I want to spend quality time with quality people and I want to be satisfied with what I have rather than focusing on what I don’t have.

In order to help guide myself and stay on track, I have created an ongoing and quite large Google Doc with actual steps to achieve the simple life I strive for. Now, I know that you’re probably thinking that making lists and Google Docs doesn’t sound like simplifying, in fact it sounds like more work.  But it actually is a form of simplifying for me.   And I really LOVE lists.

Below is my list to myself, in no particular order:

Be Careful With Commitments

It’s ok to say no sometimes.  Do not overbook, ie; appointments, play dates, subbing classes, outings with friends, etc.  Create boundaries around my time while maintaining kindness.  If I really don’t want to do something and I do it, I will end up resenting that person and that is not fair to either of us.  I want to be able to give all of me instead of part and in order to do that, I need to be able to set boundaries and respect them.  

Quality Family Time

Put the phone down and enjoy these moments.  Enjoy more adventures and create more memories, do not accumulate more things. Focus on doing instead of spending. Wake up an hour earlier each day and in that extra quiet time, take care of any chores that might lead me to tell my kids, “one minute, let me finish this real fast…” if they were awake.

Choose to be Happy

Maintain an attitude of gratitude.  Let go of what no longer serves me and understand that this may be ever changing. Let go of toxic relationships and energy vampires- you know who they are. 

Do Not Compare Myself to Others

Less social media- PERIOD.  They only show you what they want you to see.

Purge

Purge and donate more often- aim for once a month.  Remember that I cannot take things with me whenever the day comes to travel to the great beyond and I don’t want to burden my grandkids with crap that grandma kept in the garage that no one has a clue as to why she kept it.

Family Calendar 

Create and abide by the Family Calendar- add To-Dos here, grocery items that are needed, important reminders, dinner menu for the week.  (“sync” with my personal planner and online calendar) 

Bedtimes

Start a mellow bedtime routine for the kiddos 1 hr before they get tucked in.  After they are in bed, prep for the next day to make the mornings easier- lunches, backpacks, etc.  Keep my To-Do list in one place, write items down before bed so I can try to clear my mind.  No phone use before bed- Read a book instead.

**Set my alarm 1 hour earlier to avoid rushing in the morning and enjoy the ‘me time’.   

Work Space

Shred papers that create clutter, file ones that absolutely need to be kept.  Take pictures of documents if I just need the info for a later time and then toss the physical paper.  Clean my desk and use it for writing and not for my piled up books that I am going to read (ha!), the clothes that are too clean for the hamper but too dirty to be put away again (you know you have those too), and all of the bobby pins that I can never seem to find in the mornings. 

*** While I am at it, keep the kitchen counter free of crap and piled mail that I’ll just eventually toss.  This is be the saving grace for my marriage.

Unsubscribe!

Go through emails that I trash before ever opening and unsubscribe from them.  While I’m at it, unfollow peeps on social media that cause me to think negatively of myself or others, or make me feel inadequate, or like I need to create a life that does not actually serve me or my family. 

Reactions

Take AT LEAST one deep breath before responding to something that irked me.  (DO NOT roll my eyes during this breath) This will give me a chance to clear mind before I say something I might regret.  It’s better to respond kindly and clearly than to yell and freak out- this way I don’t have to fix things later. 

Self Care

Remember that self care is ok and so very necessary.  “You can’t pour from an empty cup” – This can be scheduling a massage, going to yoga, taking a bath when the kids are asleep to avoid toys being hurled at my head while trying to relax. I am worth the time.  Utilize the hour when I wake up early to meditate, move my body, write, savor my tea/coffee- anything that fills my cup and sets the tone for a good day. 

Laundry

Do a load if I have the time to avoid spending an entire day on laundry (and to avoid running out of underwear).  Put the folded clothes away immediately because looking at that shit is stressful enough. 

Food

Eat slowly. Drink slowly.  Savor the flavors. PUT THE PHONE DOWN. Meal plan for the week with quick, yet nutritious meals and enough leftovers for lunches.  Pack lunches the night before for work.  Eat out less.

Finances

Create a budget and actually stick with it. Avoid impulse Target and online purchases by holding the item in my hand (or ‘add it to my cart’ when online shopping) and seriously contemplate if this is something I need to survive or will it make me a better and happier person.  Ask myself- Will I just end up donating it in a few months? Will it be one more thing I have to pick up when I clean the house?  

Let go

Let go of trying to please everyone. Focus on my hub- John and the kids. Remember that I may not be everyone’s cup of tea, cup of coffee, glass of wine, shot of whiskey…. and that’s ok. Remember that that’s ok.

Fun Fact:

I tried digging through my purse to see if I could find the note that was the catalyst for this post.  It has since disappeared into the black hole, just as so much has before it.  Though I did find- two dinosaurs, only the spring and the ink portion of a broken pen, the plane ticket from when I flew up north for the birth of my niece Aubree, some microblading ointment (did mention that I got my eyebrows microbladed and it’s awesome?!?), expired DayQuil tablets, a $10 bill (score!), crumbled up Post Its (of course), rocks (lots of them), 95 cents (tiny score?), and flattened pennies from- the Santa Ana Zoo, Cafe Du Monde, Gettysburg, Dodger Stadium, Hunting Beach, the San Diego Zoo, Monterey, and Disneyland.

So, no note but my purse is now clean.