It was 4:30pm, and my wife and I were wrapping up our volunteer work with Allegheny County’s vaccine program. We had helped about 330 people receive their first Moderna shot, and we were anxious to hear if there were any leftover doses, since volunteers would be eligible for them. There were; we gratefully received them.
That morning, I designed my yoga practice around this potential. I also had a plan on how to practice the next day to cope with fatigue. Here is what I did to prepare for my shot:
First, It’s All About Lymphatics
I heard from several people who wished they drank more fluids the day of their shot and the day after. All day I kept up my water intake. This is a good idea in general, of course, but especially when we are taxing our immune system with a vaccination.
However, simply drinking water isn’t enough. If we drink water but we aren’t moving, our bodies just get rid of the excess fluids. For true hydration, movement is critical.
Lymph, the fluid portion of our immune system, needs to move around the body in order for our immune system to do its job well. Lymph doesn’t have a pump in the same way our blood has a pump. It relies on movements to work. This is one reason why active people get sick less often than inactive people.
So the morning of my shot, I moved my lymph around in two ways. First, I gave myself a full self-massage. It doesn’t have to be an intense muscle massage. The great thing about a lymphatic massage is that it’s literally skin deep. All you have to do is rub your skin from head to toe, with or without oil.
From there, I practiced a myofascial release sequence that stretched and wrung out my skin, muscles and internal organs. The video below is a shorter all-levels practice you can use before your shot (or really anytime). Note the constant movement and release of the abdomen, underarms, and inner legs—all lymph node centers.
In summary, before getting your vaccine:
- Drink plenty of water
- Give yourself a light massage to target your lymph
- Practice a short myofascial release sequence that focuses on your lymph node centers
Then, It’s All About Restoration
The immune response is different for everybody, and that includes vaccines. Our body is using its resources to mount a defense. This is why we feel fatigue: Our body tells us to relax so it can focus on shoring up its ability to stay healthy.
Even if we don’t feel fatigue, the day after a vaccine is an important day to practice yoga in a restorative way. The day after my shot, I didn’t feel fatigue at all and tried to practice a 45 minute HIIT routine. About 10 minutes in, I got a headache; my body completely rejected my plans. I needed to let my body recoup.
So, I did what I should have done in the first place: Long, restorative holds relaxed on the floor. The asymmetric postures can be held for at least three minutes per side. You can stay in the last two as long as you’d like; fifteen or twenty minutes, plenty of time to relax your system and let the pose work on you. Here are a few pose ideas for a restorative practice:
Note that several of these postures are inversions; my head is above my heart. Gentle inversions are a boon for our lymphatic system. After practicing these postures for about an hour, my headache was gone and I felt at ease again.
This technique also worked with my clients after they received their shots. I encouraged them to drink water when they felt they needed it. They all felt better for the rest of the day as they continued to recoup. So make sure you’re hydrated throughout these practices as well!
Finally, deep belly breathing is a great lymphatic practice, and you should breathe abdominally throughout these restorative postures. With your breath and practice, you can support your body as it readies itself for getting out into the world again, stronger and more resilient.
To sum it up:
- Practice long, relaxed holds
- Inversions are great
- Water—also great
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