As the days are getting colder and shorter, we know that flu season is just around the corner. Most have an arsenal of rituals they preform, to try to prevent themselves from getting sick. Whether it’s loading up on the vitamin C, using hand sanitizer excessively, or eating the latest exotic berry, we’ve all been there trying to beat the odds.
One thing we can do to improve our chances this season to stay healthy, is incorporate a yoga routine into our daily activities! By practicing yoga we can directly influence our immune system by stimulating the four main physiological systems: circulatory, digestive, nervous and endocrine.
How does yoga affect yoga affect the immune system?
When our bodies are stressed we release hormones which then aggravate our nervous system, this in turn compromises our immune system and increases our chances of being susceptible to illness. Through relaxation which we can achieve through a yoga practice, the nervous system is able to communicate with the immune system to back off which will decrease symptoms such as inflammation and mucus.
Many of us lack the proper circulation throughout our bodies due to a stagnate lifestyle. This prevents our organs from getting enough oxygen rich blood, which causes blockages and buildups of toxins and mucus. By incorporating different types of yoga postures we gently massage and relax various glands and organs and are able to increase the levels of oxygen they receive for optimal function.
Check out these recommended poses to see how they can improve your immune system!
Supported Fish Pose
This revitalizing pose opens up your heart and lungs. When we sit all day compressing our chests, our breath suffers and becomes shallow and stagnant. This prevents us from breathing fully, and removing stale air from our lungs, this can cause congestion in the lungs and sinuses. As we stretch the front body we are also nourishing the digestive tract and increasing metabolism which then stimulates the thyroid.
To practice this pose start in a supine position (lying on the back), and place a block in between your shoulder blades. Make sure the block is placed right under the bottom tips of your shoulder blades, and that you maintain a gentle curve with your neck. You can use an addition block to support your head if the stretch is too intense for your throat.
In bow pose we put immense pressure on the belly, this increases the blood flow to the abdominal organs making the digestive system stronger and healthier. As we increase the blood flow in our digestive system the number of lymphocytes, small white blood cells that fight invaders, also increases strengthening our immune system.
As Bow Pose is a pretty intense back bend you want to practice safely by preforming a gentler back bend to start such as Cobra Pose, alternatively if this is too intense you can practice Bridge Pose. Begin by lying belly down, keeping your arms alongside your body. Tuck your chin toward your chest, bending your knees and reaching for your feet or your ankles. Smoothly and slowly, lift your head up off the floor, raising your chin and chest. Remember to breathe deeply.
Legs Up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani)
In this restorative inversion we are able to ground the nervous system, and boost our immunity. Our body has lymph nodes in our neck, armpits, and groin which trap bacteria and other substances, which are then destroyed by blood cells. This lymph fluid flows upwards against gravity for most of the day, by inverting ourselves the lymph nodes are able to work with much greater ease. Also by inverting ourselves we are able to increase blood flow to our upper body and head which can bring much needed fresh oxygenated blood to your organs.
To practice this pose simply raise your legs up and elevate your lower back. You will need a few props, such as blankets, blocks, and a bolster for support. This pose can also be practiced away from a wall using a bolster or block to prop your legs up. Feel free to add another folded blanket under your neck for added support.
Try this ginger tea recipe to keep you warm this winter!
Ginger has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Consuming ginger has been proven to combat nausea, fight infections, and decrease inflammation in those suffering from osteoarthritis.
What you will need:
-1 tablespoon of grated or thinly sliced fresh ginger
-1 tablespoon of raw honey -2 cups of water
1. Boil water in a sauce pan or kettle
2. Peel the ginger root (you can use the back of a spoon for easy peeling)
3. Grate the ginger or slice very thinly
4. Pour boiling water over the ginger, cover and let steep for about 8-10 minutes.
5. Add honey and any other optional ingredients you would like to taste.