Amidst the outbreak of the novel coronavirus and the dog days of flu season, there has never been a better time to work on improving your immune system. That’s where yoga can help. Yoga has numerous benefits for supporting your immunity and staving off disease.
In this article, we’ll review some of the benefits of yoga and how it can help enhance your immune system, keeping you healthy and happy all year long. For more information on yoga flow patterns or to shop our unique collections of high-end fitness apparel, please visit Ghost Flower today!
Pranayama for Vitality
Derived from the Sanskrit word “prana,” meaning “vital life force,” pranayama is a practice in yoga that focuses on controlled breathing exercises and sequences. This technique can be practiced during a yoga flow, as well as in many other situations, like during a meditation session.
The deep and intentional breaths of the pranayama practice have been shown to reduce stress, increase a sense of wellbeing, and even to reduce inflammation in the body. The final point is the most important when it comes to supporting your immune system, so let’s take a closer look at yoga and inflammation:
When our bodies experience inflammation or internal irritation, the immune system is weakened and we are more susceptible to viruses and infections. Thus, by practicing pranayama, you will improve oxygen absorption and lower the levels of inflammation in your body.
To get familiar with pranayama and immediately start reaping the health benefits of this yoga practice, try the following exercise:
- Sit comfortably on a flat and sturdy surface, such as a chair , a yoga mat, or a blanket with your feet planted firmly on the ground
- Close your eyes if you would like to, or maintain a soft gaze on a single focal point
- With your shoulders in line with your hips and your chin slightly tucked, raise your head so that it is upright, with your neck engaged yet not tensed
- Inhale slowly for a count of three to five, imagining the energy of your breath traveling up the length of your spine
- Exhale for a similar count, noting the feel of your body rooted into the ground and the safety of the earth
- Repeat for at least ten rounds, continuing for as long as necessary to feel calm and relaxed
Spinal Twists for Tenacity
When the body is tense, especially in the area surrounding your vital organs, digestion and waste elimination are impaired. This can cause unwanted, negative energy to build up in your body, weakening your immune system and increasing your chance of becoming ill.
Spinal twists are a physical movement incorporated into a variety of yoga poses, and all of these can help improve your digestion, energy levels, and immunity. Here’s how spinal twists work:
- Find a seated position and move your legs so that they are extended in front of you
- Use your right or left foot (whichever is dominant) and plant it on the outside of the opposite leg as close to the knee as it feels comfortable
- Flex the foot that is still extended
- Inhale with intention, then plant the palm on the same side of your crossed leg on the small of your back
- Using your other hand, reach to the opposite side of your body to create a lateral twist along the torso
- Lengthen your spine and breathe into the stretch to deepen the soothing, healing sensation
- Remain in this position for at least five breaths
- Uncross your legs, return to the initial position, and repeat on the other side
Uttanasana (Forward Fold) for Avoiding a Cold
Forward folds, referred to in yoga as uttanasana, are one of the most common movements incorporated into total-body yoga flows — and for good reason. Not only do they lengthen the spine and stretch out the posterior chain, but they have immense benefits for the immune system too!
Flus, viruses, and respiratory conditions like pneumonia all can be caused by the buildup of bacteria and toxins in the lungs. By executing a forward fold or some half-fold variation, you can actually clear out the pleural membranes (your lungs) of the congestion that might otherwise cause illness to crop up. Forward folds are also great for clearing the sinuses and clearing the airways for improved breathing.
You may think a forward fold sounds self-explanatory, but given that the name is derived from the Sanskrit for “intense stretch” and “posture”, there are definitely best practices and form precautions to ensure you execute it correctly and reap the most health benefits. Here’s how to do it!
- Stand tall with good posture and feet firmly planted about hip-distance apart
- Hinging forward slowly with softly bent knees, fold your upper torso over the front of your legs
- If you need extra support, use yoga blocks or straps. If you need a deeper stretch, bend down and grasp your ankles or feet. For a more relaxing and healing stance, try to become as loose as possible by dropping into a ragdoll position.
- Hold this position for five to 10 breaths
- Slowly roll the spine up, one vertebrae at a time, to safely return to a standing position
With flus, viruses, and other pathogens floating around the air, take time for yourself to work on boosting your health and protecting yourself from illness. Yoga is a healing, relaxing, and effective way to do this, so why not do your immune system a favor and give it a try?