I think most of us can get behind the idea that massages are wonderful; the pressure exerted and the massaging ‘towards the heart’ gets our blood flowing and makes us feel renewed. Well, body brushing is a similar concept that works primarily on assisting our lymphatic system to remove excess fluid, support our immune system, and make us feel good.
Why caring for your lymphatic system is so important:
This system basically has three big roles: it is a main part of the immune system, maintains fluid balance throughout the body, and is necessary for absorbing fat and fat soluble nutrients. You can think of it like our blood circulatory system, in that it has has a system of vessels, from larger to microscopic ones, that create a complex web throughout almost all of our body’s tissues.
Basically, lymphatic fluid is collected from all around the body and is transported towards the larger blood vessels close to the heart. As lymph travels, it collects fluid build-up, bacteria, and other sketchy organisms. This fluid then passes through larger vessels that contain lymph nodes, a kind of filtering and collection area where things get analyzed for potential threats. Lymph nodes swell when there’s an infection and/or fluid build-up. This is why you may have felt those sore or rubbery round things (nodes) on your neck when you get a cold or infection.
Like blood vessels, lymph vessels don’t have muscles in them to squeeze fluid forward. Instead, they have one-way valves so that there’s no back-flow, and the only way fluid moves forward is through an external squeezing force, like surrounding muscle contraction (hence another reason why exercise is healthy).
So how does body brushing fit into all of this?
As I mentioned earlier, lymphatic vessels are everywhere, including just below the surface of your skin, where there aren’t many muscles to help ‘pump’ the fluid forward. This is where that simple, yet magical, brush comes in: brushing your skin helps propel the fluid forward so that it can drain excess fluid, improve skin texture, and filter out toxins. As a bonus, the light skin stimulation from the bristles helps you feel both relaxed and renewed, so you feel good right after too!
How to brush your body
First of all, get your hands on a high-quality, natural bristle brush like this one.
Starting from your furthest extremities, brush your skin with long strokes towards the heart.
I start from my feet, up my legs, back, and torso, then from my hands, to arms, to chest, to neck. Avoid brushing your facial skin because it is more sensitive and it may not even be very pleasant. Feel free to brush every day, or as often as you like.
Harder bristles or pressing strongly is not particularly helpful, unless you enjoy scratchy painful things. Remember, lymphatic vessels in the skin are just below the surface, so just a light swipe does the job. Any soft, natural bristle body brush will do.
Personally, I would avoid using the body brush on your face since the skin there is much more delicate and prone to reacting to impurities that may have been picked up by the brush along the way.
To remind yourself to use it, place the brush somewhere near your shower. As you wait for the shower water to heat up, give yourself a good brushing.
For women, remember to brush breasts towards the armpit area too, since this is a place full of lymphatic vessels and important for maintaining breast tissue health.
Wash the body brush every once in a while. I don’t really have a specific timeframe for this, but every once in a while I wash it by bringing it in the shower with me, putting some soap and water on it, wash the bristles, and then either just rinse the brush right away, or give myself a good sudsy scrub with it before rinsing.
So now that you know all about body brushing, and especially the amazingly important lymphatic system, there’s really no excuse to not giving it a try! And, don’t forget to cheek out some of my other skin care practices, like my Seasonal Approach to Moisturizing or making magnesium oil to improve health
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