Does Yoga Help Your Immune System?
Posted On April 12, 2020
As we move into more uncertain and troubling times, we are all wondering how we can best protect ourselves.
Many of us are (quite rightly so) looking at how we can protect our bodies and our immune systems.
Hand sanitisers, hand soaps and multivitamins are flying off the shelves, but what if there was a more sustainable and healthy way to keep the body functioning at its’ best?
in this post, I’ll help to answer the question – does yoga help your immune system or is it just another unfounded claim?
How yoga boosts the immune system
Scientific research provides us with an interesting insight – bacteria and viruses may actually lie within our bodies at all time, and only strike once the internal conditions allow.
These internal conditions may be increased stress, lower immune functioning and general burnout and fatigue within the body. Yoga is unique in that it works for the functioning of the entire body – the organs, the cells and the muscles. This is in contrast to other forms of exercise which may only work certain part of the body.
Yoga is able to bolster the immune response through lowering stress levels and ensuring the body is in a state of calm and balance at all times.
Yoga also conditions the respiratory tracts and stimulates the removal of toxins from the body, ensuring optimal function of all vital organs.
By ensuring that the body is always at optimal functioning level, any viruses or bacteria that enter the body are unable to act in the way they are supposed to, simply because the body is too strong to allow it.
The pranayama or breathwork that yoga is known for helps with keeping the respiratory system healthy and the lungs functioning how they should.
Colds and flu typically have an effect in some way or another on the respiratory system and so keeping this system healthy is vital. This can help even if you do contract a virus or cold, as your body may be stronger and better equipped to get healing.
Kraftsow in his book Yoga for Wellness states that poor immune functioning may be due to distrubed breathing techniques.
If you’ve been practicing yoga before, you’ll be able to quickly notice the change in mood and general wellbeing that comes when you make a shift from unconscious breathing to conscious breathing. And all this means is being aware and taking control of the breath.
You can try this right now – the correct way to inhale is starting with your stomach. As the lungs fill with air, the stomach should expand and feel larger. As you exhale, the lungs should deflate and the stomach should contract. Try to inhale for 4 counts, hold the breath for 2 counts and exhale for 4 counts again.
Repeat this at least 10 times and just see how you feel. This is also especially helpful for times or anxiety or worry. Personally, I’ve noticed feeling quite anxious lately, even just before a yoga session. However once I get going with the yoga class and I have done a few rounds of deep breathing, I feel clearer and more calm.
Prevention is better than cure
Obviously we are focusing on the idea of prevention here.
There are some poses that will help you if you do seem to get a cold or feel a bit under the weather, however if you are very ill and have the flu then you should rest.
Prevention is better than cure. Once you are ill, there’s not too much to do apart from look after yourself and let it pass. However, by putting in a little effort each day and ensuring you have some vital self-care scheduled in each week, you can prevent yourself getting to the point of illness.
This is where self-discipline comes in. At this time more than ever it is so tempting (and I have done this myself lately too) to just sit around and eat quick and easy food that might not be the healthiest. However, we need now more than ever to keep our bodies and minds healthy and in check.
It may take a little more effort and a little more conscious planning of what to eat and what yoga to do when, but your body will be thanking you for it once you get it done.
Does meditation help?
So I’ve spoken quite a bit about how meditation and yoga go hand in hand. And I mention this a lot because I truly believe in the power of meditation.
Meditation helps us get back to us – our true inner selves. Here is where we find all the peace and joy we need.
And meditation can also help the immune system. Meditation significantly reduces stress on the body and the mind, again helping the body function at its’ optimal level at all times.
However the benefit of meditation is about more than just relaxation, scientific research shows us that there may be something about how meditation affects gene expression that can impact on our immune functioning.
The genes of a group of seasoned meditators were compared with a group of non-meditators. The meditators gene showed particular shifts in genes related to fighting viral infection. There were also increases in telomerase activity, which builds telomeres (shorter telomeres are related to a number of chronic illnesses and ageing).
The best chance you can give yourself, your body and your mind is to begin a practice incorporating body yoga and meditation.
How will you get started?
If you’re thinking that this all sounds great and you’re now wanting to just get going and get started then I have a few other posts that may help you out.
Remember that starting a new practice is all about making it feel manageable and enjoyable, whilst getting the benefits you need from it.
I hope that by starting either yoga or meditation you’ll start to see positive results manifesting in your life.