Our Two Circulatory Systems—Yes, there are two!

November 25, 2019

Proper breathing is a fitness mechanism. It increases our energy level and conditions our circulatory system or cardiovascular system, sending fresh oxygenated blood to our heart and lungs. This system feeds our brain and fuels our body by improving circulation, reducing blood pressure, reducing stress and eliminating anxiety disorders.

The other circulatory system is the lymphatic system. It’s a network of organs, lymph nodes, lymph ducts, and lymph vessels that produce and transport lymph from tissues to the bloodstream. The lymphatic system is a major part of our body’s immune system. The lymphatic system is considered the “sewerage” or cleaning system because it filters out waste and cellular byproducts.

Here’s an interesting fact: There’s more lymph in the body (approximately 6-10 liters) than blood (approximately 3.5-5 liters) and it is found throughout our entire body except for the brain and other minor areas such as the cartilage of the ears. The lymphatic system does not have a pump like the heart to circulate fluids through the body.

Studies conducted by lymphologist, Dr. Jack Shield, have shown the considerable effect deep breathing has on the lymphatic system. By placing cameras inside the body, he observed that deep diaphragmatic breathing stimulated the action of the lymphatic system by creating a vacuum effect, which then pulled the lymph through the bloodstream. This increased the rate of toxic elimination by as much as 15-30 times the normal pace.

It’s a two-for-one—deep breathing actually works double duty toward your good health!

To enhance your lymphatic system, try this exercise that I call The “Reverse” Breath.

Take a breath in. Exhale slowly and completely out of your mouth, releasing air until there is nothing left to exhale. Repeat, breath in and slowly breath out, observing how your body works to breathe. What can you observe about your breath?
You probably noticed that when you exhale completely, your body automatically takes in more air. Your lungs work like a vacuum, expanding to draw in the maximum amount of air. Often we think of an exhale as the conclusion of breath, when in fact exhaling is the first step in preparing your body to receive a full, oxygen rich, diaphragmatic breath.

You can use the Reverse Breath at the beginning of your warm-up to fully oxygenate your body, which will help to energize your workout.

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