Having a healthy immune system is essential for maintaining good health.
It protects your body against foreign invaders like viruses, bacteria, and parasites.
A strong immune systems helps you avoid illnesses like the common cold and allows your body to bounce back more rapidly after you become ill.
How does the immune system work?
The immune system is a complex network of organs, cells, proteins, and tissues that is designed to protect the body.
The three main tasks of the immune system are:
- To detect and neutralise foreign pathogens including bacteria, parasites, viruses, and fungi.
- To fight any of the body’s cells that might have mutated due to an illness like cancer
- To recognise and neutralise harmful substances that have come from the environment
White blood cells (called leukocytes) are one of the most important components of the immune system.
There are two types of leukocytes.
The first type are phagocytes, which destroy invading organisms.
The second type are lymphocytes, which help the body recognise and remember invading organisms.
Leukocytes are produced and stored in many parts of the body, including the bone marrow, lymph nodes, and spleen.
They will constantly circulate around the body, looking for foreign cells and marking them for destruction.
The immune system can be weakened by poor health, disease, or old age.
When it is in this weakened state, the immune system will be vulnerable to pathogens like the the flu virus.
In some cases, the immune system will become overactive and will mistakenly attack healthy cells, potentially resulting in an autoimmune disease like multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, or alopecia areata.
There are a number of diseases, health problems, and injuries that can compromise the immune system including malnutrition, diabetes, certain cancers, radiation exposure, and severe burns.
How does yoga boost the immune system?
If you are concerned that your immune system is not functioning optimally, yoga may be the answer.
Here are a few of the ways that yoga can boost the immune system.
Yoga reduces stress, boosting the immune system
Researchers have discovered that stress can negatively impact the immune system by causing inflammation and decreasing the number of lymphocytes that are available.
You can prevent this from occurring by using yoga to reduce your stress levels.
Yoga’s ability to reduce stress has been confirmed by numerous studies, including a recent review of 15 randomised controlled trials.
This study found that yoga decreased pro-inflammatory markers and improved the overall performance of the immune system.
Yoga stimulates the digestive system
Many yoga poses improve how well the body can digest food.
This ensures that you obtain as many nutrients as possible from the food that you eat — reducing the risk of nutrient deficiencies that can cause a weakened immune system.
Yoga improves cardiovascular health
One of the major advantages of practising yoga regularly is that it strengthens the cardiovascular system.
This is also beneficial to your immune system as improved blood flow will help leukocytes travel around your body, detecting and eliminating pathogens more effectively.
Yoga promotes better sleep
Yoga encourages sleep by exercising the body and calming the mind.
You will find it easier to get to sleep and to enjoy better quality sleep.
Getting a sufficient amount of sleep helps to keep your immune system in good working order.
5 yoga poses that will strengthen your immune system
Here are 5 poses that will provide a boost to your immune system.
Incorporating these poses into your every day yoga routine can reduce your risk of illness while also providing you with a substantial energy boost.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
This powerful pose will stimulate your digestive organs, which will help you obtain more nutritional benefit from your food which will fuel your immune system.
It will also stimulate the thymus, an organ located in the chest region that is responsible for growing regulatory T-cells — an important part of the immune system.
To perform Cobra Pose:
1) Start by laying on your belly with legs straight and tops of the feet touching the floor. Your hands should be palm down on the ground like you are about to do a pushup.
2) Press the tops of your feet and pelvic bone firmly into the ground.
3) Pull your shoulder blade back in and as you inhale, use your arms to lift the front half of your torso from the mat. Look up towards the ceiling if you are able to.
4) Take several breaths and return to starting position.
Mountain Pose (Tadasana)
In yoga, even the simplest of poses can provide some incredible health benefits.
Mountain Pose, for example, will help you regulate your digestive system, relieve tension, and improve blood circulation.
It can also provide a quick boost to your energy levels.
You can perform Mountain Pose at any time throughout the day.
Performing Mountain Pose is simple:
1) Start in a standing position with your feet a few inches apart and your hands by your sides. Concentrate on keeping yourself grounded.
2) Keep your hips aligned over your legs and your legs over your feet.
3) Allow your tailbone to drop, lengthening your lower back. The weight of your upper body should be flowing directly through your pelvis to the floor.
4) Centre your shoulders and look forward.
Hold the pose while breathing deeply.
Adept’s Pose (Siddhasana)
Adept’s Pose is a very useful pose for relieving stress and improving immune system function.
To perform Adept’s Pose:
1) Get into a comfortable seated position with one leg crossed in front of the other.
2) Grab the hell closest to you and pull it in towards your groin.
3) Place your hands on your knees.
4) Keeping your spine straight as you roll your shoulders back and down.
Hold this position and enjoy the feeling of serenity and inner peace.
Downward Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Downward Dog is a wonderful pose for boosting your circulation and helping immune cells flow freely throughout your body.
To perform Downward Dog:
1) Start on your hands and knees with your hands shoulder width apart and finger spread out on the mat.
2) Push your hands and balls of your feet into the mat as you straighten your legs and lift your pelvis towards the ceiling.
3) Reach your heels towards the ground to stretch your hamstrings.
4) Widen your shoulder blades and you look between your belly button.
Hold this position and take 5 deep breaths.
Plank Pose (Kumbhakasana)
This is another pose that targets the digestive area while strengthening the arms, wrists, and spine.
To perform Plank Pose:
1) Start on your hands and knees with your wrists directly beneath your shoulders
2) Straighten your legs, lifting your knees from the ground as you ground your toes on the mat
3) Squeeze the glutes to stabilise the body.
4) Keep your neck and position neutral as you slowly take 5 to 10 breaths.
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