Our immune system is our body’s natural defense mechanism that fights against health hazards. This means that it is a very crucial aspect of our being that is constantly performing the important work of keeping us disease-free.
But we hardly pay attention to this fact. Pollution, junk foods, and stress due to our busy lifestyles can weaken the immune system.
Also read: 9 Common Lifestyle Habits That Derail Your Weight Loss Plans
The practice of yoga and meditation is a great way to regenerate and boost our immune system. Yoga can vitalize the four physiological systems connected to the immune system – the nervous, circulatory, digestive and endocrine systems.
Every yoga posture positively impacts at least one of these four important physiological systems, which in turn positively impact the body’s immunity as well. All yoga practices also help lower stress hormones. Psychological stress also has the capacity to weaken our immunity.
Our immune system has been found to be highly intelligent and responds to positive and negative thoughts.The immune cells respond to a shift in our thoughts, moods, and expectations. This should alert us to be aware of the damage that negative patterns can do to us and prompt us to use every method, every trick to transform them into positive ones. Contemplation and meditation show us the way.
Let’s now examine a few yoga poses and meditation practices that can help bolster our immune system.
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
The bow pose is recommended for a healthy digestive system as it increases blood flow to the abdominal organs by putting pressure on the belly. All the nervous connections along the spine are also thoroughly stimulated. All this boosts our overall immunity.
How to do it:
- Lie face-down on your belly with your arms alongside your body. Rest your forehead on the floor
- Bend your knees and catch your ankles.
- Inhale and lift your head, chest, and thighs off the floor. So you will be resting only on your abdomen. Don’t rock back onto your hips. Arch your shoulders and neck backward and raise your thighs as much as you can. Ideally, keep your knees and thighs together but if this is difficult you can allow the legs to come apart.
- Some people may not be able to lift their thighs off the floor at all. In that case just keep the head and chest lifted and keep pressing back on the knees while holding the ankles. With practice, the thighs will begin to lift.
- Take deep breaths and hold the position for not more than 30 seconds.
- Exhaling release the pose by letting go of the legs and bringing your chest and head back to the floor and relax.
Shoulder Stand Pose (Sarvangasana)
The shoulder stand poses powerfully stimulates the Thyroid gland, the master endocrine gland of the body, situated at the base of the throat. The thyroid controls the overall growth and development of all body systems. If this gland is out of balance we suffer immensely. In Shoulder stand, our chin is tucked into the chest, pressing into this gland and in addition in an inverted position, an abundant amount of blood rushes to this area. All of this acts like a strong medication in keeping this gland functioning optimally.
How to do it:
- Begin by lying down on your back, arms at your sides with palms down and legs extended.
- Inhale and swing your hips and legs off the floor. As the hips lift, quickly bring your hands to support the lower back, with the forearms resting on the floor.
- Straighten up the legs as fully as you can and try and bring the legs and torso into as straight a line as you can. Walk the hands down the back, closer to the shoulders. So now you are upside down and resting fully on your shoulders and neck.
- Your chin should be pressed into your chest.
- Focus on soft abdominal breathing. Deep chest breathing cannot happen in this position.
- Stay in this pose for about half a minute as a beginner and slowly extend up to 3 minutes as your practice develops.
- To come back, lower the knees to the forehead and bring your hands to the floor. Bring your back down gradually, vertebrae at a time, till it rests on the floor and then lower your legs down, also with control.
Now, on to a few meditation practices that are beneficial for the immune system.
Mindfulness meditation has been known to boost the immune system. There have been studies which suggest that the practice of mindfulness meditation boosts antibodies, that are known to neutralize foreign agents such as virus and bacteria.
It is believed, meditation increases electrical activity in the areas of the brain that act as a command center for the immune system, thus making the immune system more effective. Here are a few ways to practice mindfulness.
Focusing your attention on your breath is the most basic way to cultivate mindfulness.
- Sit or lie down in a comfortable position with your eyes closed. Rest your hands wherever comfortable.
- Relax your body. Pay attention to the little things about your body like the sensations you experience, the touch, connection with the chair and so on. Let go of any signs of tightness or tension.
- If you are under stress or experiencing anxiety, start by inhaling deeply through your nostrils, hold your breath for about 2 seconds and release your breath with a long exhale.
- Come back to the natural flow of your breath. Concentrate and feel each sensation of your breath as it comes and goes. Pay attention to where you feel your breath in your body, be it your nostrils, chest or abdomen.
- During the process, your mind may wander to random thoughts. Do not try to resist the thoughts as it is very natural for the mind to keep drifting away. Gently redirect your focus each time, back to your breath. This is how we train the mind.
- Stay with this process for about five to seven minutes. Once you finish, appreciate yourself for doing this practice.
Body Scan Practice
The body scan practice trains our mind and focus by allowing us to be aware of different regions of the body.
- Lie down and stretch your legs out. Place your arms by your sides and relax. Keep your eyes closed. Take deep breaths for about two minutes till you feel relaxed and comfortable.
- Shift your focus to the toes of your right foot. Feel the sensations on your toes and continue to focus on your breath. Imagine that each breath you take flows to your toes and each out breath takes the stress away from your toes. Continue to focus on this area for about five seconds.
- Divert your focus to the sole of your right foot. Repeat the process in the previous step by keeping the sole of the right foot in focus. Next, move to your right top of the foot, the heel, ankle, calf, knee, thigh, hip and then cover the left leg in a similar way once you are done.
- Gradually, move your focus to the torso, through the lower back and abdomen. Then the upper back, chest, and the shoulders
- This process will continue with your right and left arm. Then move to the neck, throat and all the parts of your face.
- Once you reach the top of your head, imagine your breath reach out beyond your body and hovering over your head.
- Become aware of life energy, pranic energy all around you and within you. Breathe slowly and deeply and feel this life energy move from your toes upwards, through all the parts you named and then feel it exit through the crown of your head. Again feel the energy hovering above your head. Repeat this once again.
- When you’ve completed this visualization twice, relax for some time in silence. Open your eyes slowly and stretch if needed.
Good health and a peaceful state are interrelated. Make sure to make yoga and meditation a part of your daily life to ensure a healthy and happy existence. Remind yourself to take good care of your immune system and be grateful to your body’s natural defense mechanism which protects you every day from sickness and disease.
To a disease-free and a happier life !