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Boost Your Immunity with Yoga Practice

18 April 2013

There’s a good chance that you (like most people) spend a lot of your time around large groups of people; in the office, in class, shopping, etc. And, we all know that along with shared experiences and shared conversation come shared colds, viruses and flues. Perhaps you already do a lot of things to avoid catching them, e.g.; taking vitamin C, eating foods rich in immunity-boosting phyto-nutrients, trying to get enough sleep and washing your hands regularly. But, one approach to preventative health that you might not be taking full advantage of is regular yoga practice. Studies have shown excessive stress to be a key factor in lowering your resistance to any disease, from the common cold to life-threatening afflictions like cancer, heart disease and diabetes, to name a few. Yoga practice will tackle stress head-on by moving your mind and body away from a state of dis-ease into one of balance, ease and invigoration.

If you are a student of yoga or have even taken one class, you know from experience how much it can help you release tension and calm down. And, the feeling of peace that yoga produces does a lot more for your overall health than just to help you unwind. When your body is fully relaxed, your immune system can focus on fighting off only the particular infections and intruders that it needs to, rather than overreacting to your entire environment. Whenever you’re stressed out, your immune system will tend to lash out even at harmless irritants, making it more difficult to fight the actual bugs and germs that you’re exposed to.

A great example of just how powerful your body can be if it’s left to its own resources can be integrated into your practice by meditating on your body’s reaction to its environment. Inquire as to whether you feel hot or cold for instance, and make a mental note of how you’re registering those sensations. Do they seem pleasant, painful or are you able to simply observe them without judgment?

The next step would be to consider how to change that. Reactivity is major cause of stress, prompting you to feel as if things are happening to you, and that you’re just a helpless victim. You can change this by starting to practice thought patterns that move your mind away from a reactive position. For instance, if you feel cold, notice how consciously drawing breath fully into your body creates the sensation of warmth spreading throughout your cells. If you’re feeling too hot, curl you tongue and exhale through your mouth, feeling the heat dissipate as the warm air leaves your body. Each moment of your practice offers a new choice. By cultivating insightful understanding, rather than just reacting or judging, you’ll begin to learn to choose the most efficient, effective ways to fill that asana with precisely what is available to you in that given moment. So, instead of reacting and stressing out, you can then relax into each asana; opening new spaces in your body, encouraging better circulation and the absorption of prana, which aids your body in coming to its own defense, without interference.

Try the following asanas to ward off the sniffles and sneezes, build your immune system and improve your overall health:

  • *Gomukhasana (Cow Face Pose): This asana releases tension from the shoulders and opens the chest to facilitate deep breathing, relieving congestion and helping to make you less vulnerable to germs. It is recommended you stay in this pose for one minute, then release slowly and repeat on the other side.
  • *Balasana (Child’s Pose): This is a basic restorative asana that is very effective at helping your body to relax, which powers up your immune system. Remain in this pose for at least 30 seconds up to a few minutes.
  • *Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose): This gentle backward bend helps bring oxygen into your body, delivering it all the way down to the cellular level which greatly helps you fight off illness.  It’s best to stay in the asana for 15 to 30 seconds, then release.

Additional tips…

Practice regularly and stay on schedule. This may be easier if you join a yoga class where you have an encouraging instructor and the support of others. Working with your body’s biological clock (re-setting it as necessary) will help your immune system function optimally.

Cleanse your sinuses and nasal passages. Nasal irrigation using a saline wash (Neti pot) can help reduce your vulnerability to infections, colds and other upper respiratory problems. See this post for more, click on: Jala Neti – De-mystified…(Video).

Remember that your physical health is quite often a reflection of your mental state. Do your best not to get distracted by pressure. Resist overreacting to sensations or situations. And, don’t worry about anything you can’t fix! Most things you might view as “problems” are really challenges and/or suggestions; meant to help you discover new directions in your life.

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