Full disclaimer: I am a yoga teacher of two decades who came to it via a debilitating back injury.
I had absolutely no intention of practicing yoga, let alone being a teacher of it. After five classes of a helpful, different kind of pain, I was hooked—becoming wholeheartedly vested.
Along the way, I had somehow gotten it into my mind that yoga was for folks who lived in the slow lane—it certainly wasn’t going to be exciting enough for my then-teenaged self.
How wrong I was!
Not unlike a lot of us who practice postural yoga, I was on the mat to find relief from the back pain that I was experiencing. I felt seen and supported through this ancient practice. Diagnosed with five bulging discs, I knew I had to find a way to help heal myself. As I look back inside of my life, I wasn’t settled within until I began to include the teachings of yoga and meditation into my whole life.
Cut to now, I am always looking for a great yoga book that can help support my practice and my students. Well, here it is folks!
Melanie Salvatore-August’s new book Yoga To Support Immunity brings us step-by-step into agency toward our own healing. Through attitude, movement, and breathing, we can become more resilient and strengthen our immune system with yoga.
I had known of Melanie for a while but I had never met or spoken to her, and one day she messaged me on Instagram and asked if I would consider reading her book, and perhaps, writing something about it if it resonated. Well, it did and I’m excited to let you know all about it.
When chatting with Melanie, what I loved most was her wish to be helpful to folks like her aunt, who knows yoga is beneficial but hasn’t really started practicing. For as little as 10 minutes a day, or three to five minutes a few times a day, practicing yoga as Melanie teaches is all we need to realize the positive possibilities.
Developing these micro habits can have a big healing effect.
“Through the practice of yoga, we have at our fingertips what we need to begin an immune-boosting program,” says Melanie, senior yoga teacher with YogaWorks and author of Fierce Kindness and Kitchen Yoga. For those seeking more ease in their body and an overall feeling of wellness, this book offers transformational results.
To get started, all we need is the wish to feel better and a body to breathe, move, and stretch.
If you already have a yoga practice, this practice manual will help you go even deeper—highlighting exactly what each stretch and breath is doing on a physical, neurological, and emotional level. If understanding the why behind every nuance of what you’re doing is intriguing to you, this book is a must-read.
All of us can be our own best yoga teacher right where we are and use our innate wisdom to guide our own healing path. Human beings and nature are always regenerating, moving to higher ground and balance when we find ourselves off-kilter. When we offer our body-focused attention, it gives back much more than we could have imagined.
Those new to yoga often ask, “Will my practice get any easier?” The quick answer is yes and no. It has to do with our perspective. As we become more experienced, we’re able to reap more of the benefits—but it doesn’t exactly become “easy.” We do, however, learn to listen to our body’s needs, which is considerably more helpful than perfecting the asanas.
Yoga To Support Immunity is especially valuable as we navigate a world that has diseases like COVID-19 inside of it, offering tools for returning to proximity. Yoga practice is not only a healing balm for the soul, it increases our chances of staying healthy year-round. Because of yoga in my life, I know that when illness comes, there are many restful positions to help the body come back to balance. Melanie’s book meets us where we are and provides a practical guide to be our best and healthiest self.
We learn how to breathe to lower stress hormones, condition the lungs, and bring fresh, oxygenated blood to our organs. So while the asanas are profoundly important in keeping our immune system balanced, so too is mindful breathing, or as yogis call it, pranayama.
The “Full Complete Breaths” exercise cultivates focus, balance, and relaxation.
What I love about this is that it expands often-neglected side/back areas of the lungs. It can be utilized alone, in asana, and in life, as it activates as a system balancer. It’s also good in postures where the spine is supported and core engagement is not needed. Avoid vigorous asanas. Practicing “Full Complete Breaths” demands a relaxation of the stabilizing pelvic floor and lower abdominal muscles, so it isn’t appropriate for active asana or any body movement where spinal stabilization is needed. Melanie has taken the word “hard” out of yoga as her “how to do” section with each posture and breathing exercise makes it easily accessible.
Increased energy and stamina are two of the best side effects of practicing breathing exercises as well as calming the body, especially if there are already allergies, asthma, or other respiratory conditions. There are many breathing exercises in this well-thought-through yoga book.
When we have a consistent yoga practice, we become more mindful in other ways that concern our health, like choosing healthy snacks when we’re hungry, noticing when the body just needs to stop, or putting our legs up the wall for five minutes. We gain this kind of subtle awareness over time. Just by starting a yoga practice, we gently put our body on notice that we care deeply about it and that our health matters.
Paradoxically, when we slow down and practice a few asanas, we have increased energy and are more productive. This is true for the “Three-Minute Daily Essential Mini Sequence.” Melanie tells us that we can do these either standing or sitting, and for those working at a desk much of the day, she recommends trying both.
Wherever you are on your journey to better health, just taking baby steps is all that’s needed for bigger things to take shape in our lives. As we continue to evolve into a kinder and healthier society, may we nurture ourselves and strengthen our immunity by being the positive change we’d like to see in the world,—one person at a time, starting with you.
Image Credit: Melanie Salvatore-August’s book, Yoga To Support Immunity.