The technique of brushing the skin with a bristle brush has been around for centuries, from the ancient Greeks to Native Americans, and is used to stimulate blood flow which, as it turns out, has a myriad of benefits.
One of the benefits that I believe in the most is on the lymphatic system and will be my main focus in this post. This system acts as an intermediary between the blood and immune system and consists of two semi-independent parts. First, lymphatic vessels, which are scattered throughout the body and function to transport fluids that have escaped from the blood vascular system back into the blood. The fluid that escapes and enters the lymphatic vessels is then called lymph. Second, lymphoid tissues and organs house the cells that play essential roles in the body’s defense mechanisms and its resistance to disease.
So, what’s the deal with dry brushing in strokes towards the heart? Lymphatic vessels form a one-way system in which lymph flows towards the heart and dry brushing in heart ward strokes encourages it to continue traveling on its one-way path. Also, the lymphatic system lacks an organ that acts as a pump so it relies on active movement of skeletal muscles (exercise!), breathing (yoga breathes), and pulsation of nearby blood vessels (skin stimulation).
Dry brushing stimulates blood flow and circulation to the skin and in turn, this increases the flow of lymph along the vessels where it passes through lymph nodes that, in essence, are scanning for signs of infection, cancer, and disease. From the lymph nodes, it continues towards a duct which puts the fluid back into the blood system, helping it maintain balance and also to help carry toxins to organs such as the liver and kidneys that function to eliminate or fight toxins and disease.
So by the simple act of brushing our skin, we are increasing blood flow, helping to move lymph along its one-way path to the heart through disease-detecting lymph nodes. We are also removing dead skin cells that can clog pores, creating dull congested skin and improving its overall health and appearance.
Tips for Dry Brushing
- Choose a natural-bristled brush, and consider one with a long handle to help you get hard-to-reach places, such as the back.
- Start at the feet and move upward, toward the head, using smooth strokes, brushing toward the heart to increase blood and lymph flow.
- Dry brush prior to bathing, preferably in the morning as this practice has been known to deliver a boost of energy and follow with a skin nourishing body oil.
- Make sure to brush the lymph nodes clusters at the back of your knees, upper inner thigh, armpits, and neck.
- If you are new to dry brushing, start with very light strokes and work gradually increase pressure as your skin gets more accustomed to the bristles.