Our immune system does a remarkable job of defending us against disease-causing microorganisms. But sometimes it fails: A germ invades successfully and makes you sick. Is it possible to intervene in this process and boost your immune system? Can some exercises help in improving our overall immunity? Yes! Certain yoga asanas can definitely help in improving our immunity if done on a regular basis!
How does yoga boost immunity?
- Yoga helps in stimulating the physiological systems directly linked to the immune system, i.e. the digestive, circulatory, endocrine and nervous systems.
- It also helps in detoxifying and oxygenating the body and increases the circulation of lymphatic fluid. This fluid moves through the body, collecting bacteria and viruses, and filtering them through the lymph nodes.
- Yoga helps in stimulating and balancing the body’s biochemistry through the thymus gland, and thyroid glands.
- It largely helps in reducing stress and fatigue, two factors that compromise the immune system.
- Also, it assists digestion, which improves the utilisation of nutrients and the release of toxins.
- Legs Up The Wall (Viparita Karani)
Viparita Karani is often called Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose. There are many benefits to inverting the actions in your body. When you put your legs up the wall with your pelvis, lymph and other fluids that can lead to swollen ankles, tired knees, and congested pelvic organs flow into the lower belly; this refreshes the legs and the reproductive area
Method to do it: Arrange your body on the floor in a way that your legs are up on them. Next, move your hips as close to the wall as possible, then start walking your feet up the wall until your body is in a somewhat L-shaped position. Make any adjustments to facilitate a more relaxing space– maybe place a pillow under your head, or let your arms rest on your belly or out to the sides. At this point, focus on your breath– try elongating your breath, taking a deep, slow inhale through your nose and a deep, slow exhale through your nose. Try to stay in the pose for at least 5 minutes for optimal benefits.
If your hamstrings are tight, bend your knees and bring your seat away from the wall to allow your body to relax into this pose.
It helps in relaxation, facilitates venous drainage and increases circulation, soothes swollen or cramped feet and legs, stretches the hamstrings and lower back, relieves lower back tension
Precautions: Avoid practising this pose if you have:
- A hernia
- Cardiac issues
- Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
This pose helps to stimulate the thymus, an organ located behind the chest bone that is responsible for the growth of T-cells(a type of cells that provide us immunity)
How to do it: To get into this position, come onto the ground on your stomach. Place both palms under the shoulders. Draw your elbows towards your side body. Keeping the gaze down towards your mat, maintain a neutral neck. As you inhale, push down through the palms and lift the chest, engaging the core and lifting the quads off the ground. Tops of the feet should still press into the ground. The neck remains neutral and the gaze stays on the ground.
Cobra Pose will leave you feeling revitalized and will also provide a boost of energy after a long day of sitting in the same position.
Precautions: Common postural errors during this asana include overarching the neck and lower back. One recommendation is to keep the gaze directed down at the floor and focus on bringing movement into the area between the shoulder blades (the thoracic area, or middle back).
- Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
This is a restorative pose, which helps open up the heart and lungs, breaking up congestion in the lungs and sinuses. When we sit hunched over our desks all day, our breath becomes shallow and stagnant. This is one of the best poses to access a deep diaphragmatic breath and helps balance an agitated nervous system.
Matsyasana expands the chest and stimulates the thymus. This helps improve the body’s immunity level. This asana allows the spine to be twisted all the way from the base of the spine to the very top. This asana tones the spinal nerves and ligaments, and improves digestion and also improve liver and pancreas health
How to do it: The asana is a backbend, where one needs to lie his on their back and lift the heart/ chest area by rising up on the elbows and drawing the shoulders back. The neck is lengthened, and the crown of the is “pointed” toward the ‘wall’ behind. As the arch of the back deepens with practice, and the heart and throat open further, the top of the head may brush the ground
- Downward Dog Asana (Urdhav Mukha Svanasana)
This asana stretches the shoulders, legs, spine and whole body; builds strength throughout the body, particularly the arms, legs, and feet; relieves fatigue and rejuvenates the body. It improves the immune system, digestion and blood flow to the sinuses. It also allows congested sinuses to drain.
How to do it: Stand on four limbs, such that your body forms a table-like structure. Exhale and gently lift your hips and straighten your elbows and knees. You need to ensure your body forms an inverted ‘V’.Your hands should be in line with your shoulders, and your feet in line with your hips. Make sure that your toes point outwards. Now, press your hands into the ground and lengthen your neck. Your ears should touch your inner arms, and you should turn your gaze to your navel. Hold for a few seconds, and then, bend your knees and return to the table position.
- Bridge Pose- Setu Bandhasana
This is a deep, but gentle backward bend. It opens and expands the chest area, releases tension in the back, hips and shoulders.
How to do it: Slowly lower the feet, keeping knees bent and feet hip-distance apart. Slowly uncurl the spine onto the floor and, when the head reaches the ground, relax completely as you exhale. On an inhale, press into your feet and raise the hips and lower back off the mat. Interlace fingers underneath you. Shift from side to side to get comfortable, and breathe deeply.
A recent study found that practising yoga can alter gene expression that boosts immunity at a cellular level!
With monsoons restricting outdoor activities and workouts, what better than improving immunity and staying fit as well with these yoga poses which can be easily done in the comfort of your home!