Yoga is a spiritual discipline that involves mental, physical and behavioural practices aiming to create harmony between the body, mind and existence; elevate and expand the spirit; and realise our ultimate nature. Plus, Yoga practice provides countless side-benefits.
Yoga predates all religious ideologies and belief systems and has been around for over two millennia yet, we still ask for proof about its benefits!
Thankfully today there is an increasing amount of scientific evidence detailing how Yoga assists greater health and wellbeing (see a few articles listed at the end).
In particular, the aim of this article is highlight a few Yoga techniques to support the immune system.
While pharmaceutical drugs tend to be highly targeted, and suppress the immune system, Yoga is a holistic therapy that supports holistic health and all-round mental and physical health. In its support of immune functions, Yoga lowers stress hormones, strengthens the nervous system and stimulates the lymphatic system which removes toxins from the body. Plus, Yoga calms the mind and contributes to regular deep sleep. And, most importantly, Yoga takes you on a journey to truly understand what is ‘self’ and ‘not self’. This is an imperative function of immunity.
Right now, it’s possible to find many recommendations of Yoga postures that will improve the immune system, so here are a few different suggestions from Yoga’s portfolio:
Pranayama—Practice Deep Abdominal Breathing
Breathing doesn’t begin in the top of the lungs; it begins in the lower lungs and stomach. In deep inhalation, the diaphragm extends down into the belly. Deep breathing activates the whole of the lungs, filling the body with maximum prana, the vital life-force that powers the immune system and entire body.
Abdominal breathing is best practised on an empty stomach. First practice lying down (in shavasana), then sitting and standing.
With conscious control, breathe in slowly and deeply by moving the diaphragm down into the belly. Fill the lower lobes of the lungs, and feel the belly expanding and the navel rising (but not much movement in the shoulders or chest). Gently hold the breath for a second or two. Then, with control, relax the diaphragm, feel the navel moving toward the spine, and exhale slowly and completely, using the diaphragm to push all air from the lungs. At the end of exhalation the abdomen is relaxed. Gently hold the breath for a second or two, then consciously and fully inhale again. Place one hand on or above the navel, if you wish. Continue for 10, 20, or 50 breaths, or up to 10 minutes.
Repeat the Mantra ‘OM’
This ancient bija mantra, also known as ‘AUM’, is the root sound for all other sounds.
Repeating OM awakens the positive life-force, prana, and all potential of consciousness. It build ojas, the subtle essence that feeds immunity. It strengthens the physical and mental body, and reduces fear and imagined obstacles.
All people are entitled to use OM… It is the most universal mantra. It does not need any special outer requirements, class, age, nor any inner requirements of initiation, discipline or knowledge.
Sit quietly and repeat it with awareness—not with mental dullness. Reverberations should begin just below the navel and build up to the nostrils. Utter it 21, 33, 42, 64, 72, 84, 95, or 108 times.
Hold ‘Bhramara Mudra’
The word mudra means “to seal or lock up”, and also “gesture, symbol, expression”.
Mudras are gestures done with the body—most often the hands—that redirect prana by linking up certain circuits in the energy body. The pictured mudra (above) is called ‘Bhramara Mudra’ (the bee). It is useful to strengthen the immune system and help us resist allergies.
Place the index finger in the thumb fold, and the tip of the thumb on the side of your middle fingernail. Extend the ring and little fingers. Do this with both hands.
Sit quietly and do it four times a day for seven minutes, or up to twenty minutes if you have time.
Other Tips for Healthy Immunity
- Prioritize sound sleep of 6 to 8 hours.
- Include more fresh green vegetables in your diet.
- Adopt an Ayurvedic lifestyle.
- Get regular massages and take other steps to rest and cleanse the body.
- Follow basic hygiene practices, but don’t overdo sanitizers and germ-killing liquids.
- Exercise and meditate regularly.
References and articles to check out:
Falkenberg, Ruth & Eising, Carla & Peters, Madelon. (2018). Yoga and immune system functioning: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 41. 10.1007/s10865-018-9914-y.
Danhauer, S.C., Addington, E.L., Sohl, S.J. et al. Review of yoga therapy during cancer treatment. Support Care Cancer 25, 1357–1372 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00520-016-3556-9
McCall, M. How Might Yoga Work? An Overview of Potential Underlying Mechanisms
J Yoga Phys Ther 2013, 3:1 http://dx.doi.org/10.4172/2157-7595.1000130
Girish Tillu, Sarika Chaturvedi, Arvind Chopra, and Bhushan Patwardhan.The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.May 2020.360-364.http://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2020.0129