With the seasons changing, our chances of falling ill rise, and while antibiotics and other medicines can help the body recover from disease, they don’t help to improve immunity. The ancient art of Yoga not only strengthens the body and relaxes the mind, but is also one of the most effective and time-tested immunity boosters we can adopt to strengthen our defence mechanisms and keep pathogens at bay.
Yoga for immunity is not a high intensity practise, but instead encourages relaxation, stress reduction and facilitates circulation throughout the whole body to support the immune system. The poses in this sequence are designed to heal and nurture the body and mind, and power up the immune system to defeat this seasons colds and flus.
Yoga can strengthen and encourage many of the body’s natural defences to illness such as lymph, a clear, watery fluid that picks up bacteria and viruses as it moves through the body, and filters them out through the lymph nodes.
Inverted positions where your head is below your heart encourage lymph movement into the respiratory organs where germs enter the body, and then drain upon returning to an upright position due to gravity, sending the fluid to the lymph nodes for cleansing. Downward dog also encourages blood flow to the sinuses, ultimately helping to ease congestion.
It has been suggested that toxins build up in the body due to improper digestion, which later manifest as disease anywhere in the body. Poses that gently compress, twist or extend the belly naturally detoxify and oxygenate the body.
These poses also stimulate the immune system and thymus gland, the organ located behind the chest bone that is responsible for the growth of T-cells, your body’s first response to illness, as well as open your hips to release negative feelings and energy from your system.
Bhujangasana is another great pose for stimulating the thymus. While opening your heart and lungs to relieve congestion, you will also stimulate your digestive system, aid kidney function, increase flexibility and keep fatigue at bay.
Back bends are great for relieving bronchial congestion by opening up the heart and lungs. When we sit hunched over a desk all day, our breath becomes shallow and stagnant – Ustrasana allows us to access a deeper, diaphragmatic breath and balance an agitated nervous system while massaging our digestive organs.
Halasana releases and aids the smooth distribution of white blood cells in the body while stretching the shoulders and spine and stimulating the abdominal organs and thyroid gland. This calming pose also acts to reduce stress and fatigue, some of the major contributors to illness.
The deep curve of the neck in Matsyasana benefits the thyroid and strengthens the back and abdominals, again massaging the digestive organs as you stretch your abdomen and intercostal muscles in the ribs.
While helping your body absorb nutrients better, this asana also aids in correcting breathing and toning the parathyroid gland, lifting your heart and lightening your mood.
This peaceful recovery pose boosts the immune system by aiding in the distribution of immune cells around the body. Concentrate on even breath and allow the belly to soften.
As always, it is essential to get enough rest and listen to your body. Regular yoga and meditation practise allows us to strengthen our body both physically and mentally, improving our body’s defence mechanisms.
While it is not a substitute for medicine, this nurturing and healing sequence will help to strengthen your immune system, a great precautionary measure against this season’s illnesses.