Taking care of your immune system is a top priority this time of year, but did you know a regular practice is a great way to boost your immunity?
Yoga’s ability to reduce stress does your body, specifically your endocrine system, a lot of good when it comes to helping it fight off infections. Our immune systems are lowered in times of stress, when we’re pushing ourselves too hard. Think about the last time you came down with a cold, chances are you had been working all hours, eating on-the-go and getting little sleep. Psychological stress can impact many systems in the body, including weakening the immune system and increasing chronic inflammation.
More and more research is being carried out in this area, with recent clinical studies supporting that a regular practice can help us reduce stress and thus strengthen our body’s functions and systems.
Yoga helps lower our stress hormones and calms the nervous system. Through relaxation, the nervous system can tell the immune system to settle down and inflammation reduces.
Focusing on the body and your breath during a posture ensures you are in the ‘now’ – the present moment – and with regular practice being in the now will become less challenging and more natural, so you’ll feel less anxious and fatigued, two mind/body states that lower the immune system.
Yoga also conditioning the lungs and respiratory tract, stimulating the lymphatic system to flush toxins from the body, and bringing oxygenated blood to the various organs to ensure their optimal function. Breathing technique and asana help improve the mechanical efficiency of our lungs by conditioning the respiratory tract, this in turn helps prevent infection.
In your next class, focus on postures that open the chest, and breathe deeply into each one. Some beneficial postures include include Pranayama, Half Moon, Cobra, Bow and Camel. You can also try rapid abdominal breathing (Kapalabhati) to increase the resistance of your respiratory tract, and alternate-nostril breathing to increase the resistance of your sinuses.
Most of us sit at a desk all day without getting proper circulation to our organs. This can cause blockages and buildups of toxins and mucus. In our asana practice different organs and glands are supplied with fresh blood through being gently massaged, relaxed, toned and stimulated.
Yoga postures allow you to stimulate organs and up their function, in particular, the digestive system, as well as the respiratory system – two key areas of the body you can focus on in your yoga practice to help improve immunity. By toning and strengthening the insides of our bodies we improving organ function, balance our hormones and naturally detoxify and oxygenate the body.
Finally, meditation also reduces the incidence of infectious ailments by de-stressing the body and mind. Ample research has shown that just 20 minutes of meditation a day increases endorphins, decreases cortisol levels, and fosters positive states of mind to promote better health.