Lymphatic Series — Keep It Moving Into Spring
Part 5: When to Get Help
By Andrea Foster
In Ayurveda, there’s a concept called the Four Tiers of Health. This is a self-care and wellness four-step protocol whenever you’re feeling out of balance:
- Have awareness of emotions
- Utilize food as medicine
- Use remedies and supplements
- See a practitioner
The first three levels empower you to address issues to the best of your ability. It’s not until those three levels are attempted that you seek out a practitioner. In the West, we have a tendency to crowdsource advice at the first signs of illness or pain, ride it out for a while, and finally go to a doctor when we’ve run out of things to try. We end up feeling frustrated, distant or confused by our bodies, possibly even betrayed by our health. That can result in a real disconnection from this magnificent and complex personal ecosystem we inhabit.
In this series on the lymphatic system, we’ve examined the emotional and physical indicators of balance and imbalance of the Ayurvedic doshas and the elements. Listening deeply to your body’s messages as well as the feelings that arise for you helps you develop an awareness of emotions and how they ebb and flow and affect physical systems.
The more skilled you become in understanding your own unique body language, the quicker you can pick up on changes. If something doesn’t quite feel right, examine the feelings you’re having and think about what an imbalance of hot, cold, wet, and dry may indicate. Ayurvedic lore holds that physical illness begins as emotional imbalance — this is the chance to make a change before body systems are affected.
If you’ve addressed your emotions and the issue still isn’t resolved, look at the food you eat. If you’ve had a pulse assessment in the past at the dhyana Center, you were given many suggestions as to the most supportive foods for your body — make sure you’re enjoying those and avoiding the foods that aren’t best for you.
Track the foods you’re eating and see if there are patterns, particularly around any negative emotions that arise. Do you reach for a salty snack when you’re feeling disappointment or boredom? Did a friend cancel plans and that evening you had potato soup in a bread bowl and a cookie or two? Are you feeling anxious about a work project, drinking caffeinated beverages to keep mentally sharp, but still feeling full of worry?
If you feel as though you’ve gotten straight with your food, but still experience imbalance, you can next look at specific supplements and other holistic medicines or techniques. This is where you may try a neti pot to work on allergies, or a cleansing tea to get your digestive system running smoothly.
Finally, if you have worked on everything you know how to do and you’re still having an issue, it’s time to call in a professional. A practitioner has the knowledge to use diagnostic tools to track what may be occurring, with your feedback. Be as honest about your journey as you can — this is where practiced awareness can help you provide the right information to your practitioner to gather information efficiently.
Lymphatic massage is the best work to do when you’ve got one or more issues in your body that don’t seem to clear up with adjustments to your diet or other activities. It targets the lymphatic system directly as the mechanism for supporting change and health. If there is stagnation, this type of treatment can work to find the source of that stagnation — whether it’s a dam in the river or a dry riverbed in need of replenishment. If there’s too much fire and heat and the river is evaporating, a lymphatic treatment can potentially move that heat and quench the fire, while the practitioner can give you ways to keep things cool.
It is bodywork, so be prepared for things to get done. At the dhyana Center, a lymphatic treatment begins with a pulse assessment. This provides the practitioner with a detailed view of what’s currently happening in your body. By feeling subtle changes and qualities of the pulse under the tissue of the wrist, a practitioner is skilled to sense everything from an overextended throat chakra to blockage in the small intestine to depleted energy and a diminished zest for life.
Once you and your practitioner have decided on what you’ll work on in your session, you visit the steam room to relax your mind and, more importantly, begin to warm up your skin and muscles and other tissue so that the massage will be more effective. Fifteen minutes in the wet sauna does the trick.
Now the transformation can begin. Practitioners take cues from how the body responds to the massage and target specific areas depending on what was revealed in the pulse consultation. Tools such as cuppings, gua sha, and compresses help release heat or cold from deep within. Medicated oils can help nourish or invigorate, depending on what’s needed. Every lymphatic massage is unique to each client.
You may come away from your treatment with some evidence of the work that’s done. Many people remember the sensational photos of Olympic athletes with mysterious circular bruising from the technique of cupping. Don’t feel too surprised if you resemble those elites — cupping is a common treatment for a variety of issues held within the body.
Your practitioner will also use a gua sha, a thin hand-held wooden scraper, to break down adhesions or scar tissue or increase circulation in stagnant areas. You can learn to use this tool on yourself to continue the work of moving your lymph. In fact, the more you use a gua sha, the healthier your lymphatic system can be. The best kind of fidget toy, gua shas are highly portable and can be used over clothing so you can provide yourself with mini-lymphatic treatments wherever you may be. Try it the next time you’re tempted to reach for your phone in a dull moment!
And one of the biggest benefits of a lymphatic massage is the education you receive, learning more about your own personal body, how to best support it, the current state of elements within the systems, and how to inspire positive change. Ask questions about what your practitioner finds and you’ll develop a closer relationship with your body and with the elements that can affect your wellness.
March may be drawing to a close, but you haven’t missed out on your opportunity to save on your first or your fiftieth lymphatic massage. Our Treatment Center receptionist can help you book your appointment at a 15% savings.
If you’re eager for more information about the lymphatic system, elemental balance, and self-care, don’t miss founder DeAnna Batdorff’s upcoming Self-Care Essentials class on the lymphatic system April 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. Call today to register.