Lymphatic Series — Keep It Moving Into Spring
Part 2: The Basics of the Lymphatic System
By Andrea Foster
This is the second in a five part series on caring for the lymphatic system as we move toward spring. Read part 1 here.
Ayurvedic theory holds that the elements affect all aspects of the body and mind — from your approach to life to your food cravings to your personal challenges. A particular combination of elements can reflect your body’s relationship to weight as well as the best activities for you. The elements and how they balance in your body can also inform you what self-care techniques can keep your lymphatic system running smoothly.
Last week you learned a little about Ayurveda and how the elements combine in the body to support our health, wellbeing, and goals. Now we’ll take a look at the lymphatic system itself and how elements can affect this system.
The word “lymph” is Latin for “clear water”. In Ayurveda, the lymphatic system is referred to as the “Rasa” or “river of life”. The lymphatic system is a widespread network that visibly resembles delicate rivers and tributaries spread throughout the body. Its work is to interact with the blood vessels to carry excess fluid back to the heart and deliver fats and hormones to the blood. It’s also active in our immune system, assisting our warrior cells to identify and combat foreign invaders while sweeping away the debris of battle. You can imagine how important it is to keep this river running smoothly.
In a river on the earth you can see a few things happen. A river can dry out during a drought — we’ve seen this throughout Northern California following the frequent dry winters that are out of balance for this region. A river without water isn’t much of a river — flow isn’t happening.
A river can also run sluggishly or not at all when there’s a great deal of matter collecting. A dam is an example of this — either made naturally when sediment collects following a flood, or created by a creature for its own needs. Eventually the river will need to find a way to compensate for the dam and reroute itself if possible or the flow will stop altogether.
On the other end of the spectrum is a river raging out of control from flood — too much water.
And, of course, when a river is frozen, it’s stagnant in a different way. Everything is suspended. There will be no forward motion until a thaw.
All of these conditions can be seen in their own subtle — and not so subtle — ways in the body’s river of life, the lymphatic system. When you become aware of imbalance, observe the nature of it through clues that can manifest in your energy, emotions, or physical body, you can then choose the ways you can correct the imbalance and get that river back into its best flow.
An important feature of the lymphatic system is that, unlike our blood that is unconsciously pumped through our body by the heart, the lymph is moved through the body both by the pulse of our arteries as well as the action of our muscles. Activity supports the lymph – it moves when we do.
The health of the lymphatic system takes high priority at the dhyana Center. Our bodies cannot be kept vibrant with only an occasional tune-up when you’re feeling particularly off. The body systems – especially the lymph – rely on consistent, steady maintenance to keep all of the body’s functions flowing smoothly. It’s so much easier to keep our inner and outer environment clean and thriving when we do daily maintenance in small amounts, rather than allowing issues to pile up into insurmountable obstacles to the point of breakdown.