Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Thoroughly Draining Experience

Cornflowers, "before". . .  See "after" below.
Marsi shares yet another one of her secrets today. What would we do without her?
When I came home from work one afternoon last week with my feet feeling fiery and swollen, straining at their Repettos, I knew that in spite of what the calendar said, summer heat was nearly upon us -- and with it, endless months of fluid retention.

For me, a huge part of the discomfort of summer comes from feeling swollen. In fact, I can't even think of l'été without remembering the dull misery of having puffy feet and "hotdog fingers." External heat dilates the blood vessels in our body, allowing increased blood flow and lymphatic fluid accumulation in our extremities. That equals swelling, edema, bloating, whatever you'd like to call it. (Personally, I call it horrible.) It doesn't feel good, nor is it good for you.

So, what's une femme d'un certain age, or any age, to do? It's a daily fight, one I wage with drainage techniques from head to toe. In these guest posts, I'll tell you how.

Today, let's take it from the top: your head.


Don't it make my brown eyes blue?
No, it don't. It make them un-puffy.

Tish turned me onto eau de bleuet -- cornflower water or eau florale bleuet -- a few years ago with this post, and it's now one of my most favorite things in the world. I'll let Tish fill in the blanks:

Eau Florale Bleuet is an ancient, delightful melange of fantasy and function. It is concocted from cornflowers and distilled water; comes in another one of those beautiful blue bottles and as promised reduces and relaxes puffy eyes. Most versions come with a spray top, but it works best in compresses imbibed with the liquid and placed over the eyes for a few minutes. It's particularly pleasant and effective when stored in the refrigerator.  

It's delicious to lie down and cover your eyelids with cotton pads soaked in chilled eau de bleuet. Twenty minutes later, you're ready to face the world again.

"Serenity now!"

Also important in keeping your eyelids comfortable and de-puffed is sleeping with your head elevated. I realize not everyone's a back sleeper -- and for most of my life neither was I. But not only does sleeping "sunny side up,"  with your head elevated 30-ish degrees, keep your face free of sleep wrinkles (it's a real phenomenon, I wouldn't lie to you) and your skincare treatments on your face rather than your pillowcase, but the gentle force of gravity pulls fluids down and out of your face so you don't wake up with puffy eyelids. I sleep propped up on a cushy bank of pillows, with another stashed under my knees to ease the pressure on my lower back. I'll admit, I don't look like Sleeping Beauty, but I think I wake up looking and feeling refreshed as she.

Facial Massage

Everyone knows that massage gets the blood and lymph flowing in your body. But did you know it's great for your face as well? I was instantly intrigued by the Gankin facial massage technique I came across about six months ago. Now this is truly amazing. If you can spare three minutes just a few nights a week, you'll see a gradual tightening of the jawline. (Allegedly, the jowls we often develop in our 40s and beyond are just pockets of stagnant lymphatic fluid that've chronically distended the jawline. After what I've seen of the effects of Gankin massage, I believe it.) Once you lapse your practice, of course the jawline softens again. Fortunately, it's so easy to reverse.

Suqqu, a Japanese skincare company (and apparently the originator of the Gankin technique), recommends using its own massage cream (naturally), but I just use a few drops of argan oil instead. I grab my instructions (PDF here) and oil after cleansing my face, and settle in for a few soothing minutes. When I'm done, I continue the drainage by reclining against that bank of bed pillows I mentioned above and closing my eyes. Isn't it wonderful when something so indulgent is actually good for you?


Virabhadrasana I pose.
Pretty good alignment, given Kitty's lack of proper knees. 

Our lymphatic system is a passive circulatory system, meaning it has no pump (such as the heart) to force fluids through our tissues. Rather, lymph relies almost entirely on our physical exertions to get around the body. If we don't exert ourselves, then gravity takes over and we're left with pools of lymph stagnating in our extremities, our breasts, and other places we don't want it. (Read all about it.) It's up to us to keep these fluids moving so we stay healthy, well, and vital.  My favorite way, which we'll revisit again and again in this series, is yoga. Upside down and all around, yoga moves and massages every muscle, every organ, every gland, every tissue, in your entire body and face. It shows.

So that's it for de-puffing north of the neck. In my next post, I'll be moving south. I hope you'll stay tuned.

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