Get your blood pumping and your immune system strong!
My roommate has recently been sick with a sinus infection, and has been trying everything to get rid of it. Seriously—neti pot, greens, ginger, garlic, Emergen-C, and still he has been under the weather for two weeks.
I, on the other hand, haven’t been sick with a cold in four years. I usually get a really runny nose for one day, and then the symptoms are gone. My not-so secret—yoga!
Yoga, along with its many other health benefits, is an amazing way to boost your immune system.
>>Yoga Gets Things Flowing
Any form of exercise is a great way to boost your immunity. When you get your body moving, it helps flush away anything you don’t need through sweat.
Yoga is especially good at this. While certain forms of exercise focus on just one part of the body, yoga is a holistic practice that helps connect, integrate and warm all of the parts of the body—especially areas like the hips, which we can tighten instead of stretch in other forms of exercise.
Opening the hips and armpits is especially important in immune boosting, because the majority of your lymph nodes are located in the armpits and groin. Opening up the armpits in poses like Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward Facing Dog) and the hips in deep lunges and backbends, is an amazing way to increase blood flow to the lymph nodes and pump up their detoxifying power.
Twists in yoga also help with digestion, and having a strong digestive system is an important part of your immune system’s health. Western medicine in just starting to acknowledge this. Research is showing that up to 70 percent of immunity comes from our gut, and that having a healthy digestive system leads to a healthy immune system.
>>Yoga Reduces Stress
This sounds obvious, but something we often don’t think of when we think of immunity is how much it is affected by stress. Stress is toxic to the body. When your body is trying desperately to alleviate the inflammation that stress causes, it leaves your immune system vulnerable to invading bacteria and viruses.
>>Yoga Increases the Flow of Oxygen to the Body
Often times, as we move through the day, our breath becomes shallow and quick. This causes both mental and physical stress, as we are not providing our body with enough oxygen to process what is coming into it. This causes the body’s amazing detoxification systems not to operate optimally, which again leaves you vulnerable to those pesky colds and flus.
Here are a few simple yoga poses you can do to help boost immunity as we enter cold and flu season:
Start off seated, finding a comfortable, cross-legged position. Close your eyes, and begin to focus on your breath. Breathing in and out through your nose, begin to lengthen and deepen both your inhales and your exhales. As you begin to find your deepest and fullest inhale and your deepest and fullest exhale, begin to find balance within your breath. Try to make each inhale the same lengthen, depth and quality of each exhale.
Practice this balanced breath for two minutes. Use the breath to bring your awareness into your body, and to keep your mind focused and centered. After two minutes, continue to breathe deeply but begin to bring movement into your body. Come onto your hands and knees and take a few cat/cow breaths. Inhaling to lower your belly towards the floor and lift your gaze towards the ceiling, and exhaling to lower your chin to your chest and round through the spine (like an angry cat).
After a few rounds of trying to connect your inhales and exhales with this movement, curl your toes under and press yourself back into Downward Facing Dog. In Downward Dog, feel like you are grounding down through your inner palms and pressing yourself away from your hands. Open through the armpit chest and find length and space in your spine.
From Downward Dog, look between your hands and walk or step your feet to your hands. Come into a forward fold. Let your head feel heavy, more like it’s traction on the neck than having your neck hold your head.
Slowly draw your low belly in towards your spine, and vertebra by vertebra roll yourself up to standing. Take your head up last, and find Samasthi (Equal Standing Pose).
From here, practice Surya Namaskar A (Sun Salutation) to help get your blood flowing. You can practice as many as you feel you need to get warm (usually one to five).
Beginning in Samasthi, inhale to reach your arms up, taking your palms together and gazing up towards your thumbs. Feel the sides of your waist grow longer. As you exhale, fold forward, reaching towards the outside of your feet (you can bend your knees if needed). Inhale to lift and lengthen through your spine. Exhale to step back into plank, with your shoulders above your wrists and your body strong behind you. Bending your elbows and keeping them glued to the sides of your body, lower yourself halfway or all the way to the mat, coming through Chaturanga (Four Limbed Staff Pose) to Up Dog or Cobra. Make sure you take your shoulders onto your back wherever you are, opening your chest. As you exhale, press yourself back to Downward Facing Dog.
After you have warmed up with some Sun Salutations, step your right foot forward and your left leg back, coming into a lunge.
Take your right ankle below your right knee, and try to make your right waist as long as the left by reaching your right hip back. Lift your left heel and strongly engage your left leg. From here you can move into a twist by lifting your right arm up and opening your chest to the right side, or you can move into opening the front of the left hip by lowering your left knee. Once you’ve explored on the right side, switch to having your left leg forward. Get your blood pumping and your immune system strong!
Kristine Piper Doiron has spent the past few years as yogi gypsy, travelling around the world on a quest of learning more about yoga, life, herself. Through her journey she has been lifted and humbled, taken jumps forward and leaps back. She now teaches yoga out of Victoria, Canada, sharing her own evolution of learning and unlearning with her students in an attempt to help them deepen their connections with our true teacher, the Self.
Editor: Sara McKeown