yoga to boost immunity
At this time of year, when I find myself all of a sudden in the depths of Autumn, I really begin to appreciating the immune boosting qualities that yoga has to offer. Yoga is a wonderful system that can keep us fit and healthy as we transition into the colder months.
With the colder weather or nasal linings become thinner making us more susceptible to infection. Through our yoga practise we can boost our bodies immunity so that is able to cope with the onslaught of bacteria and viruses that come with this time of year. There are four systems in the body that yoga postures focus on keeping us fit and healthy.
1. Circulation – Cardiovascular and Lymphatic systems
Your heart is the power house of your cardiovascular system. It keeps nutrient and oxygen rich blood flowing through blood vessels to the various body parts for proper functioning. Poor circulation on the other hand plays a role in almost every diseease. Therefore it is essential to keep the blood flow and the heart working efficiently if we are to stay fit and vital.
Sun salutations and dynamic flow sequences thatare aerobic stimulate the heart, strengthening it, helping to increase the blood circulation throughout the body. Relaxation on the other hand is vital as it allows the arteries to open up and actually lowers blood pressure. Relaxation is an important skill when considering immunity.
The lymphatic system works in conjunction with the cardiovascular system, transporting lymph around the body through vessels to lymph nodes where there are white blood cells ready to help defend against infections. It keeps blood and lymphatic fluid levels in balance and helps to flush toxins out of the body. The difference though is that unlike the circulation system, the lymphatic system does not have a pump to encourage the flow of lymph around the body. It relies purely on gravity and muscle contraction.
If your lymphatic slows down and becomes stagnat which is what happens when we become very sedentary a toxic build up is created in the nodes, leaving us feeling sluggish and decrease our ability of fight off illness.
Focusing on twists stimulates the flow of lymph up through the core of your body. Inversions reverse the effects of gravity and help to drain lymph up from the legs. Aerobic flow works on contracting and relaxing the muscles which is the primary way in which lymph flows around the body.
Your digestive system is a major immune organ in your body. If there are problems in your digestive system, there may be problems with your immune system. For example, a number of symptoms may be aggravated by digestive issues, such as skin rashes, seasonal allergies, arthritis, etc. When dealing with any immune issues, the digestive system is very important to consider. A sluggish digestive system causes toxins to move from the digestive tract into the nearby lymph, leading to an increased toxicity in the blood.
Yoga postures, especially twists help to detoxify and oxygenate this system so that is running more efficiently.
Colds are caused by bacteria that affect the upper respiratory system, causing stuffiness, coughing, and sore throat. If the immune system is weak, the bacteria can go into the lungs and cause bronchitis or pneumonia.
Yoga is one of the main tools for maintaining the health of our respiratory system. Breathing techniques and posture work help improve the efficiency of our lungs by conditioning the respiratory tract, which in turn increases the elasticity and strength of the whole lung. When the lungs are stronger we are better equipped at fighting infection.
4. Endocrine System
The Endocrine system is one of the most important parts of the body because overall, it regulates mood, controls growth/development, metabolism, tissue functions and also all of your sexual and reproductive systems. The endocrine system is one of the primary ways to regulate the bodies immunity.
Yoga helps to balance the hormones you need for strong immunity. Inversions create pressure on the thymus gland at the base of the throat stimulating the endocrine system, which works with the nervous and immune system for efficient functioning.
Any postures that work on one or more of these systems will lead to an improved immunity.
Neck exercises – Stimulating the flow of lymph from your body to your head. One third of your lymph nodes are present in your neck therefore it is vital to keep these pathways open.
Sun salutations – Improve blood circulation.
Cat and cow – Improved digestion.
Cobra – Chest opener, stimulating the thymus gland one of the major organs involved with immunity.
Bridge – Improved functioning of the lungs
Wide leg forward fold – Stimulates the lymph nodes in your groin.
Shoulder stand – Full body cleanse. Reversing the effects of gravity, allowing lymph to flow around the body to the nodes.
Try out these postures on as regular basis as possible. In my eyes it is all about prevention rather than cure, don’t wait till its too late, keep nurturing and looking after your body and it will take care of everything else this Autumn.
About the Author : Laura Bell is a yoga teacher in North Wales, UK and has been practising yoga for ten years. She is the founder of a company called The Zest Life, where the philosophy is about discovering ways to help you find and feel your zest for life. Throughout the year she runs yoga classes, themed workshops and lifestyle retreats at beautiful locations in Wales. Find her on Facebook and Twitter and stay connected to living the zest life.