Swelling in your tissues, or edema, usually occurs in your lower limbs, but it can really appear anywhere. It may result from a high-salt diet, pregnancy, hot weather, certain prescription drugs, compromised lymph nodes or serious heart or liver conditions.
The pressure of excess fluid is uncomfortable and fatiguing. Yoga may alleviate some of the swelling by encouraging the flow of blood and drainage of fluid from your hands and lower body. The poses that are most effective elevate your arms or legs above your heart to reduce pooling in these extremities.
Legs up the Wall
Legs up the Wall is the consummate way to combat edema in your lower body. Variations of the posture include butterflying the legs against the wall or opening the legs into a wide "V." You might also enjoy supporting the back of your hips on a bolster or your head on folded blankets as you breathe in the posture.
How to: Place your yoga mat perpendicular to a blank wall. Lie on your side on the mat, with your buttocks close to the wall's surface. Turn onto your back and swing your legs up to rest against the wall. Pull your buttocks as close to the wall as possible. Stay in the pose for 5 to 10 minutes.
If you experience swelling in your fingers and hands, Extended Mountain pose may help. You reach your arms overhead, which can help pooled water drain from your fingers.
How to: Stand with your feet touching or hip-distance apart. Engage your thighs and pelvic floor muscles. Reach your arms overhead as if you are trying to touch the ceiling. Hold for five to 10 breaths.
Shoulder stand is usually reserved for more-practiced yogis, as it puts your neck and shoulders in a potentially compromising position. Include it as a finishing pose in an extended yoga practice. It's an inversion, so it helps fluid flow from heavy, swollen legs, ankles and feet.
How to: Lie on your back and lift your legs up toward the ceiling, bending at the hips to look like the letter "L." Inhale and peel your lower spine off the floor; support the lumbar spine with your hands, which are shoulder-distance apart. Keep your chin tucked and your gaze at your navel as you reach your legs straight up toward the ceiling, toes pointed. If the pose is new to you or you feel uncomfortable, come out of the pose and place your shoulders and back on folded blankets to prop the posture and make it more accessible.
In addition to these yoga poses, Sun Salutations in which you move from Mountain to Cobra or Upward Dog to Downward Dog at a breath-by-breath pace, can help rev your system and increase circulation.
Consider cutting back on salt in your diet and eating more naturally hydrating foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. Ample water, minimizing standing and other cardio exercise, such as brisk walking, can help reduce edema, too.