During World War I, Joseph Pilates was a German citizen living in England. His birthright earned him an internment at a British POW camp. Joe made the best of the situation by teaching his exercise system to his fellow inmates. When a deadly influenza virus broke out across the country, the prisoners he worked with remained mysteriously immune.
Bodily House Cleaning with Pilates
Joseph Pilates often spoke of the importance of blood circulation, for what he called “bodily house cleaning,” and proper breathing methods, in order to squeeze out “every atom of old air.” These ideas confer with our modern understanding how the immune system functions. Whether Pilates realized it or not, he was describing the working of the lymphatic system.
Your Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system transports lymph, a clear, colorless fluid containing white blood cells, which rid the body of toxins and waste. Its name stems from the Latin word lymphaticus, meaning “connected to water.” This system acts as a subset of the circulatory system, whose liquids contain red and white blood cells.
The Dirty Bathwater
Your red blood cells release oxygen, which your cells require for metabolism. They also need other nutrients. Apart from oxygen, cells also need other nutrient, which are delivered through the interstitial fluid. This colorless, nutrient-rich fluid forms part of your blood, but it does not have any red blood cells. It acts as a types of bath for your skin cells, and just like bathwater, it eventually gets dirty. This “dirty” fluid contains toxins called lymph, which must be removed.
The Lymph Removal Process
The lymph removal process involves a network of vessels that run parallel to the arteries and veins. These vessels transport the lymph back to the thoracic ducts, where the cleaned up lymph gets filtered out and released back into the blood stream. Unlike the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system does not have a pump. It therefore relies on your muscles, their movements and your breathing patterns for stimulation. So Mr. Pilates was definitely onto something when he spoke of breathing as a means of “cleaning the bodily house.”
Lymph and Muscle Tension
Tight tissue and scarring can inhibit the lymphatic system. The dynamic flexibility gained through Pilates practice can reverse this process. Since Pilates also mobilizes joints where most of the lymph nodes are situated. For example, the cysterna chyli, a major lymph collection point, sits near your navel. Every Pilates exercise engages this core region. Furthermore, the supine Pilates exercises eliminate the need for the lymph to work against gravity, and therefore make it easier for the lymph to flow back to the thoracic ducts for cleansing and renewal.
Whilst most types of exercise enhance lymphatic system function, Clinical Pilates holds special value for people with compromised systems. For example, increased blood flow for post-surgical patients might also mean increased lymph, so exercises such as heavy weight lifting might not offer the best option. Your Clinical Pilates instructor can modify the apparatus exercises, removing some of the springs and clearing the lymphatic transport highway. Call us at Happy Physio on 9272 7359 and seek the advice of our expert Pilates Instructors.