Nobody likes being sick, especially those of us who regularly practice yoga and make efforts to take care of our health. Every year as winter rolls around, I like to reevaluate my practice and implement a few changes and modifications to help keep the germs and bugs at bay. Yoga is one of the most effective ways to regulate and boost immunity through its known ability to reduce stress, increase blood flow, and improve digestion.
Here are eight ways to boost your immune system through yoga:
Pranayama exercises increase the intake of oxygen to the blood and improve efficiency of the lungs, helping to build resistance to infection. Deep breathing, alternate nostril breathing (Nadi Sodhana), and breath of fire (Kapalabhati) bring oxygenated blood to various organs throughout the body to ensure optimal function.
2. Practice inversions
Inversion poses such as headstand, shoulder stand, and legs-up-the-wall help circulate lymph fluid through the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system filters toxins from the blood and transports immune cells throughout the body to fight off infection.
When you focus in meditation, you’re removed from the daily stresses that take a toll on your body and mind. This gives the body time to recover and enter a positive healing state. Studies have shown that meditation builds antibodies, the body’s natural defense against bacteria and viruses.
4. Go outside
If weather permits, take your yoga practice outside and catch some UV rays. Vitamin D deficiency is a common cause of lowered immunity in northern climates that experience cold temperatures and shorter days during winter. Give your body a natural boost by doing a few sun salutations in the sunshine. Twenty minutes is all it takes.
5. Spice it up
Ayurvedic herbs and spices that stimulate blood flow and digestion include cardamom, ginger, cumin, turmeric, and cinnamon. Sprinkle these on hot oatmeal or vegetables; or steep to make tea to keep the digestive system active and healthy throughout the winter.
6. Do the twist
Yoga poses that gently twist the spine and compress the belly, like Jathara Parivartanasana (Belly Twist) or Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes) improve poor digestion that could otherwise cause toxins to build up in the digestive tract and lead to illness and infection.
7. Clear out the sinuses
Nasal irrigation (Jala Neti) techniques such as the neti pot are used in ayurveda for basic daily hygiene and to relieve congestion and irritation from dry nasal passages. In combination with forward bends like Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) or Uttanasana (Standing Forward Fold), they can help clear mucus and congestion. Just remember to use purified water.
8. Bring a friend to yoga
Holing up at home may seem like the best way to avoid illness. But research suggests that socializing and engaging in positive interactions with others is good for your immune system. So grab a friend next time you head to yoga class; and give your immune system the ultimate care package.
How do you use yoga to boost your immune system?