With spa treatments still limited and the need for self-care at an all-time high, we will seize every opportunity to add a new wellness practice to our routine. We are particularly interested in practices that gently aid detoxification of the body – bonus points if they are associated with beauty benefits. From foam rolling to massage, the lymphatic drainage massage deserves attention.
Regular lymphatic drainage can boost the immune system, reduce cellulite, and improve your mood while sculpting the body at the same time.
To find out all about lymph massages, we talked to Gianna de La Torre, acupuncturist and co-founder of Wildling, a holistic beauty brand that focuses on beautiful, well-thought-out tools for tried and tested skin rituals. (Your Instagram is one of my favorite places for Gua Sha tutorials). Gianna de la Torre is a wealth of knowledge who has worked in the wellness industry for 20 years, first as a yoga teacher, then as an acupuncturist and finally as a co-founder of Wildling. She is passionate about simple exercises that you can do at home to improve your health and well-being, and to gently support your body and beauty routine.
Immerse yourself in lymph massage with us and learn everything about exactly what you can do yourself at home.
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How did you find yourself in the world of holistic wellbeing and the trip to Gua Sha?
My interest in wellness started when I was a kid. My dad is a doctor and I grew up watching extravagant meetings hosted by pharmaceutical companies. I’m just saying that was enough to start me on a journey towards alternative medicine. I attended acupuncture school for four years – not many people know that it takes almost 100 hours more than medical school. Gua sha was my first love for Chinese medicine because as a student I could use the technique effectively to relieve pain, fever and illness in my patients. It’s an incredibly powerful healing method, but also a tool that is safe to use at home.
The lymphatic system doesn’t pump itself, so it relies on us moving our bodies or doing a massage for proper blood flow.
At Wildling, we are passionate about sharing simple Gua Sha rituals that will help you look and feel better in a relatively short amount of time. We have specially created a nice dry brush and a Body Gua Sha stone for this. We call it the aura ritual.
What is the lymphatic system and why is it important to support it?
The lymphatic system is a network of vessels in the body that carry waste material out of the tissues in order to detoxify the body. It has received a lot of attention lately in our culture because it is easy to lead a stagnant lifestyle.
If we work at the desk, eat unhealthily, and have poor digestion, this is a recipe for suboptimal fluid metabolism.
This is one of the reasons we look puffy or feel puffy. The largest lymph in the body is the spleen. According to Chinese medicine, too much candy, sitting, worrying, overthinking, etc. damage the spleen qi. Does this sound like 2020?
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What is lymphatic drainage massage?
Lymphatic drainage massage, or manual lymphatic drainage, is a special technique performed by licensed massage therapists. I’m more interested in teaching normal, non-professional people how to stimulate lymph movement in their own bodies so they can feel better and look better.
What are the advantages?
It promotes lymph flow, relieves tension and also releases the fascia adhesions in the tissue that cause cellulite.
Cellulite is not really about fat, but about fascia (connective tissue).
Dry brushing will also remove the skin. The result is firm, smooth, sculpted skin.
The benefits of lymph massage include:
- Stimulated blood flow and tissue regeneration
- Strengthening the immune system by helping eliminate toxins
- Accelerate healing of illnesses like the common cold or flu
- Increased lymph flow, which promotes faster removal of excess fluid
- Reduced swelling and water retention as well as cellulite
- Improved scar tissue, one-offs and stretch marks
- Improved digestive problems
- Promoted physical and mental relaxation
- Reduces stress and fatigue and leaves the body supplied with energy
- Help with recovery after exercise
- Reduce joint inflammation and pain
Are there any side effects?
Since you are only helping your body’s natural lymph movement, there is no great risk. However, always move the lymph towards the actual lymph nodes to ensure proper irrigation. Move up towards the heart on your limbs, towards your armpits for your chest, and down towards your groin. Be sure to ask your doctor if you are pregnant or have underlying medical conditions.
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How to do it yourself:
Lymphatic massage strokes are gentle, light, slow, rhythmic and nourishing. You want to move easily and deliberately rather than hard and fast. Try to massage the liquid in one direction: towards the lymph nodes (see the picture under the instructions for reference where the lymph nodes are), generally not in a circle. Do the exercise meditative and relaxing with deep belly breaths as you move through the massage – it’s actually quite easy once you get it down.
Check out the lymphatic drainage massage tutorial below to see how you can do this at home yourself, or read on for the breakdown:
STEP 1: Detox + Dry Brush
- Dry brushing stimulates lymph flow and warms the fabric for gua sha. Use before showering. Think the limbs up and the core down.
- Use gentle short upward movements starting at your ankle and moving your leg up (think of movements like you’re shaving).
- Next, do the same movement moving from your wrists to your shoulders.
- Follow with gentle circular motions in a clockwise direction around your stomach (from your right side over the top of your belly button and down the left side).
- End your core with downward movements from your shoulders to your groin.
STEP TWO: Moisturize
- Moisten with your favorite body oil (we love this or that) or lotion before moving on to the next step. This creates a slip and ensures that the tool slides across the body rather than pulling.
STEP THREE: Let go + smooth
- Follow the dry brush steps with your gua sha or body tool and run up from your ankle to your butt, from your wrist to your shoulder.
- Move towards your chest and make rounded movements over and under each breast towards your armpits.
- Repeat the circular movements around the stomach.
- Finish with strokes around the core and move from the shoulder to the groin.
4 of 11Image via Emma Lyddon
The lymph nodes are indicated by the small dark dots in the picture above. When in doubt, move your irrigation movements in the direction of the knots.
Is there an optimal time of day for this?
No, anytime is great. Ideally, you would incorporate it into your shower routine, but it is not mandatory.
How can you expect to feel about it?
Invigorated and energized like you’ve had a massage. The results of a session are subtle and cumulative over time. However, expect to feel light and look smoother and slightly more contoured. Don’t be surprised if you have to pee afterwards as the massage literally moves fluid out. Since you move toxins around, you should drink a large glass of water before and / or after drinking it to keep yourself hydrated and support your lymphatic system.
What tools do you need for this?
A dry brush and a gua sha or other body tool. We love the Aura collection as an all-in-one option.
Scroll on to shop for some of our favorite lymphatic drainage tools:
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Wildling Aura Stone
The Aura Stone is a multi-active body gua sha that stimulates lymph flow, relieves muscle tension and smooths the fascia.
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Wildling Aura Collection
This four part body work routine contains everything you need to soothe the skin, relieve tension, and stimulate lymph flow throughout the body. The set contains the Aura Stone, the Aura Sweeper (a dry brush for the body), the Aura Activator (a body serum) and Aura Oil (a body oil).
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De La Heart Lymphatic Drainage Body Tool
Made from 100% pine, we love the unique shape of this tool and how the curves fit perfectly with the various contours of the body.
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Boxing Allover Roller
The textured roller is specially designed for the body and breaks up the fasciae for smoother, tighter skin.
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Detox Mode Body Crescent
This beech wood body crescent is designed in such a way that it curves perfectly over the body and stimulates the lymphatic and circulatory systems.
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Yerba Prima Tampico skin brush
We love the long handle to reach all those hard to reach places.
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goop G.Tox Ultimate dry brush
The curve in this brush is smooth and simple, and offers the perfect pressure without being too intense and damaging the skin.