Tips & Tricks
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Yoga for Lymphedema

My friend Jocellyn doing yoga.

As a lot of you already know, lymphedema causes an uncomfortable build up of fluids, and getting this fluid to move can be a bit of a hassle. Compression garments, pumps, manual lymphatic drainage… it seems like we’ve tried them all. But what about yoga? Yoga promotes movement of the lymphatic fluid, helping to pump it throughout your body’s channels and prevent blockage. It can be extremely therapeutic and beneficial for lymphies, both physically and mentally.

Some Things to Remember While Practicing Yoga

  • Be gentle. Creating strain within your muscles will make it harder for the fluid to circulate, which is the exact opposite of what we’re trying to do here!
  • Wear your compression garment. Wearing your stocking or sleeve while practicing yoga provides support for your arm or leg and promote the flow of lymph. Think of it as kind of a boost to the therapy.
  • Pay attention to your body. If you begin to feel any aching or discomfort, stop what you’re doing and elevate your affected limb for a few minutes. Focus on some gentle breathing.
  • Practice conscious breathing. Breathing strengthens the diaphragm and its movement, which in turn promotes lymph flow. It is important to breathe in between poses so as to lessen the strain on your body during transition, as well as after your yoga practice.

Yoga Moves for Lymphies

These poses are taken from “Yoga for Lymphedema” on LiveStrong.com.

  • Elevated legs up the wall pose. While sitting, bring the right side of your body close to a wall. Swivel your legs up the wall and lay your upper body on the floor. Lift your buttocks up off the floor a few inches and place a blanket or bolster under your tailbone. Relax here for five minutes. Repeat daily.
  • Half standing forward bend. While standing, bend your knees slightly and place your hands on a chair or a wall. Slowly try to straighten your legs by lifting your tailbone up towards the ceiling, instead of pressing your knees back. This adjustment will make the pose more intense and beneficial. Performed as a half standing forward bend, this pose will reduce swelling.
  • Modified Cat Pose. This pose will reduce risk of swelling in the arms. With a chair nearby, come onto your hands and knees. Place one arm up on the chair and round the back by tucking the tailbone. Next, do the opposite by tilting the tailbone. Repeat a few times, then switch arms and perform again.

Join a yoga class or buy a DVD that you can do at home – just remember that you may need to adjust some of the poses in order to do them comfortably. Don’t be afraid to ask your yoga instructor on how to modify the poses for you! Pay attention to your body and do not push it beyond what is comfortable for you.

Have you tried yoga as treatment before? Share your experiences in the comments section below. Namaste, lymphies!

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Hello! I am a blogger, freelance writer, and cat enthusiast from Baltimore, MD. When I'm not writing, I'm either reading, watching Lifetime movies, or laughing out loud to reruns of the Golden Girls. Feel free to contact me with any writing opportunities, questions, or Netflix recommendations.

7 Comments

  1. I’ve found that Yoga and Pilates are great to help increase my lymphatic flow. I really like the yoga booty ballet DVDs! I am a runner at heart, however, and since my diagnosis it has been difficult to manage. I ran my first 10K earlier this year, but my swelling has increased in my leg as of late and I’ve had to taper off. I was wondering what other exercise forms you do that don’t aggravate your condition? I haven’t been exercising as much and the combination of that plus the extra stress from a terrible job and my lymphedmea has spelled disaster for my waistline…

    • Hi, Meredith! Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner.

      I am a big fan of pilates – I do it more often than yoga. I like it because it’s extremely low impact but you still feel that killer burn while you’re doing it. As far as other lymph-friendly exercises, swimming is supposed to be super for that. No impact at all, and you can get a nice workout from it, too!

      You might want to poke around the internet for some more exercises that you can do that focus on weight loss but are easy on your leg. Since I’m in recovery for an eating disorder, weight loss isn’t something I’m thinking about anymore. However, I DO enjoy being in shape, and can understand how lymphedema can put a kink in that!

      Good luck, Meredith!

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  3. Leila Norris says

    Has anyone tried rebounding? I have heard it is good exercise that is great for the lymphatics system. I have not tried it myself though.

    • I haven’t! What is that, exactly? The only exercise I’ve heard as good for lymphies (aside from yoga) is swimming.

  4. simone says

    Hello! Ive been recently diagnosed with lymphedema in my left arm after a double mastectomy a year ago. Ive been practicing regular (hatha, vinyasa) yoga before, can I continue my practice? I have slight swelling in my arm, I dont want to aggravate it, but I really dont want to give up my practice either.. am I allowed to do sun salutations, etc?

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