You may not be a stranger to the many physical and emotional benefits that a regular yoga practice provides, but did you know that research has shown that yoga can both boost the immune system and decrease inflammation in the body? There is no better time than now to make sure that Yoga is part of your daily life. Here are some of the reasons why:
Yoga Helps Reduce Stress
We are undoubtedly living in stressful times, and research estimates that up to 90 percent of illness and disease are stress related. Phew! That is a lot! Chronic stress puts our nervous system into high-alert and activates the fight or flight response (stress mode). Short term, this fight or flight response can have a strengthening effect on the immune system, however long-term stress has the exact opposite effect and can suppress our immune response. Yoga comes into play by helping us to balance our nervous system and remind our bodies to step out of the fight or flight response mode, and into the rest and relaxation mode through the postures and breathing practices. You can read a little more about the importance of this in my previous blog – is your Yoga stressing you out?
Yoga Supports our Support Systems
A standard yoga asana practice can include many twisting, stretching and strengthening poses. These poses bring fresh blood supply to the organs that support our immune system, such as the thymus and spleen. This fresh blood supply also improves the capacity of our circulatory, muscular and digestive systems to more efficiently supply nutrients and carry away waste.
Yoga Encourages a Healthy Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system is an essential component of our immune system – it is responsible for transporting toxins out of tissues and into the bloodstream for disposal, as well as regulating our immune response. Yoga, with its many stretching postures, can help to increase lymphatic flow in the body, allowing the lymphatic system to more efficiently do its job in eliminating waste and fighting any invading pathogens.
Yoga and Sleep
Did you know that without sufficient sleep, your body produces less anti-inflammatory cytokines, a type of protein that works to regulate the body’s immune response? Regular restful sleep allows your body to produce more cytokines and therefore more efficiently regulates the body’s immune system. Studies have shown that practicing yoga may improve sleep quantity and quality, due to the way in which it can help the body and mind calm and slow down through certain postures, breathing and relaxation.
Yoga Helps us to cultivate Gratitude
Esther Hicks once said "When you feel gratitude, you are the closest to the natural state your were born to be in". A yoga practice encourages us to slow down and be mindful of the blessings in our lives. It connects us back to our breath and into the present moment, and we've already talked about the benefits of reducing stress. Although the direct link between gratitude and the immune system response is still yet to be determined, preliminary studies have shown that people who practice gratitude have fewer health challenges. One study has even shown that happiness may help to keep the immune system strong.
So, as you can see there are many ways that Yoga can help improve our immunity, and along with all the many other mental, physical and emotional benefits, a daily practice can really add value to our overall health and wellbeing. If you would like a way to get started, or something to add to your practice, try this gentle Chair Yoga practice for everyBODY!