Yoga relaxes muscles and nerves. It helps regulate hormonal balance and keeps the fight-or-flight response in check. It opens up respiratory channels, increases lung capacity and improves flow of oxygenated blood to all cells. By stimulating the lymphatic nodes, it prevents build-up of toxins. All of these contribute towards building a strong immune system.
If you are someone who is always falling sick with seasonal variations or with dust/chemicals/scents, etc. around you, you need to pay some attention to your immune system.
Our immune system is a defense mechanism that protects the body from bacteria, viruses and toxins. The immune system is made up of antibodies, white blood cells, chemicals & proteins and also the tonsils, the thymus gland, lymph nodes and vessels, bone marrow, and spleen. These organs are involved in the process of generating and circulating antibodies. To put it very simply, the immune system is a squad of trillions of white blood cells which, when healthy, attacks invaders.
Yoga is not just some form of exercise, but, a holistic way of life which helps the physical, mental and spiritual status of an individual. Yoga helps to stimulate the 4 main physiological systems connected with the immune system – circulatory, digestive, nervous and endocrine systems. A weak immune system may result in recurrent colds, persistent cough, skin allergies, headaches, stomach aches, allergies from common things and much more. Yoga influences the immune system in the following ways:
1. Relaxes The Nervous System
The Nervous System is the primary communicating system in our body, and is made up of large number of cells. These cells have long fibres which transmit the signals whenever needed. Bundles of these fibres form our nerves and asanas purify and stretch these nerves. The response to stress is also stabilized by yoga, because the muscular tension produced is removed by calming the body and mind. Inversion poses, Surya Namaskar and Savasana help achieve these above benefits.
2. Balances The Fight-or-Flight Response
This balance can be affected by hunger, fear, temperature change etc. Relaxing your body with yoga practice can support your immune system and can lower down your body’s fight-or-flight response which will allow the allergic reaction to subside. Relaxation techniques like Savasana, Nispanda Bhava will help.
3. Enhances Flexibility Of The Internal Organs
When we practice twists, blood is squeezed out of the internal organs, and fresh blood flows inside on releasing the twist. This keeps the central nervous system healthy. Twists help detoxify the body, activate the secondary organs of the immune system, and stimulate the stomach to digest foods better, and thereby improve the overall functioning of the entire body. Matsyendrasana, Meru Vakrasana, Bhujangasana, Ushtrasana, and Dhanurasana will do the trick here.
4. Helps Fight Allergies
Yoga aids to maintain hormonal balance, increases energy levels and regulates metabolism. Yoga Mudra, Ushtrasana, Adho Mukha Svanasana, and Viparita Karani will help.
5. Improves Blood Circulation
Blood circulation is very important in the body, and restricted circulation creates a lot of problems. Yoga ensures a good flow of blood to the tissues which ensures a good supply of oxygen. This improves the overall well-being. Asanas like Pavanmuktasana, Vajrasana, Padmasana, Naukasana, and Matsyasana help.
6. Stimulates The Lymph Nodes
The lymphatic system is responsible for delivering nutrients and removing waste. This is done mostly by contraction and massage of the skeletal muscles. Inversion poses in yoga like Shirshasana, Sarvangasana, Halasana, and Adho Mukha Savanasana use gravity to advantage and help increase the rate of drainage.
7. Improves Oxygen Flow
Oxygen flow increases with Pranayama. Most of the times we are not aware of how the natural breathing process works. To function well, oxygen is needed by the brain, as it is the main source of fuel. Pranayama which is a focused control of the breath stimulates flow of oxygen. Kapalbhati, Agnisaar, Uddiyan, and Anulom Vilom will help.
8. Relieves Sinusitis
Sinus makes breathing very painful and tough. Whether one is asleep or awake, s/he has to live with pain every minute. The Shuddhikaran kriyas of dhauti, neti help in prevention and management of sinusitis. When the sinuses are well ventilated, infections are reduced. Neti, the practice of cleaning the nasal passages with the help of a cloth/thread/catheter helps in improving the flow of breath. Even chanting sounds create vibrations which facilitates free flow of air between membranes and the nasal passage. This air movement helps to open the ducts connecting the nose to the sinuses, allowing proper drainage of the sinus. Bhramari and Pranava Pranayama help in this management.
9. Strengthens Lungs
Heart is required to pump blood throughout the day. The lungs add oxygen to the blood and removes waste products. So, along with a strong heart, equally strong lungs are needed for good health. Backward bending asanas like Ushtrasana, Setu Bandhasana, Bhujangasana, and Dhanurasana are useful.
In our hectic lives, we are prone to more than 100 viruses that can enter our body at any given time. Good hygiene, healthy eating habits, and balanced lifestyle will help reduce the risk of common sicknesses. If we top this up with practice of Yoga asanas as mentioned above, it will help in further boosting our immune system and reducing stress.