How your Yoga Practice can support Immunity

Laura Lychnos

common-cold

A fully functioning immune system is important for optimum health.  By understanding a little about how your immune system works, you can learn how your  Yoga practice can help to support the function and health of the immune system,  and understand which particular Asanas will support the immune system.  So as are you ready for a happy healthy autumn/ winter.

The immune system is our protector.  It protects the body against disease or other potentially damaging foreign bodies, by identifying and attacking threats.

The production and growth of defence cells happens in the bone marrow and the Thymus gland.  The bone marrow can produce approx. 100million white blood cells a day.  The Thymus gland, situated behind the sternum between the lungs, transforms the white blood cells to T cells.  Once the T cells have matured they migrate to the lymph nodes.  Although the thymus gland is only active until pubity its  function as an endocrine and lymphatic gland, plays a significant role in the long term health.

The lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs.  The organs are connected to lymph nodes, which are your biological filter stations, their role is to trap pathogens and to activate the production of specific antibodies.  The spleen is the largest lymphatic organ.  Located under the rib cage in the upper left side of the abdomen it acts as a filter for blood and the storing of white blood cells.  We are also protected by the tonsils, adenoids, mucus membranes, acid in the stomach and our skin.

Yoga can be a great support for this effective yet complex system of protection you have within you.  A balanced yoga practice tones and strengthens the inside of your body, improving organ function, balancing hormones and naturally detoxifying and oxygenating the body.  Yoga can also lower the levels of stress hormones (cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine), and studies have shown that Psychological stress can double the chance of a person getting a cold.    Meditation has also been shown to reduce the incidence of infectious ailments.  Yogic breathing (or deep diaphragmatic breathing) and Pranayama exercises can help to condition the lungs, respiratory tract and strengthen the diaphragm, in particular Kapalabhati, can increase the resistance to the respiratory tract.  Anuloma Viloma can increase the resistance in the sinuses.   The yogic technique of nasal cleansing, using a neti pot can ease respiratory congestion, and the symptoms of a cold and relieve sinus pressure.  The position of the thymus gland is closely linked to the location and energy of the Anahata chakra (the 4th Chakra) which is associated with our sense of love, compassion and Joy.  Cultivating a sense of compassion for ourselves can go a long way towards supporting the immune system.

Yoga can also help to improve sleep patterns. This helps to support the immune system as studies have shown that sleep deprivation can depress the immunity.  Students often tell me they get the best nights sleep after they have been to class.

An asana (posture) practice can provide a gentle natural means of supporting the immune system.  The following Asanas have a particularly beneficial effect on the immune system.

 

 

ASANA

ENGLISH TRANSLATION

BENEFIT TO IMMUNITY

Marichyasana IIISage postureToning and detoxifying internal organs
Ardha Matsyendrasana½ lord of the fishesToning and detoxifying internal organs
KurmasanaTortoiseSupports the thymus
Adho mukha svanasanaDownward dogEncourages blood flow to the sinuses
MatsyasanaFishConditions the lungs and the respiratory tract
DhanurasanaBowStimulates the thymus gland
UstrasanacamelStimulates the thymus gland
GomukhasanaCows faceEases brochial congestion
BalasanaChilds poseEases brochial congestion
BhujangasanaCobraEases brochial congestion
SarvangasanaShoulder standStimulates lymphatic drainage
SirsasanaHead standStimulates lymphatic drainage

 

Most importantly your yoga practice should provide you with a sense of space in which to take time for yourself, nurturing the whole of the physical body, the breath and the mind.  A healthy and supported immune system is one of the many beneficial side effects of your practice.

Om shanti

Laura Lychnos is a registered Yoga teacher.  Teaching classes, one to one sessions and workshops in and around Godalming Surrey.

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