What can we do to overcome our fear of becoming sick in these troubled times which we have not experienced before and which make a lot of people suffer from anxiety, loneliness and depression? How can we strengthen our immune system? I will try to give you some advice how to stay well and safe and at the same time find a new way to help body and mind.
How does our immune system work?
The immune system is the body’s natural defense system against infections. It does not reside in one single part of the body but is made up of a network of cells, molecules, tissues, and organs working together to protect the body.
The main tasks of the body’s immune system are
- to fight disease-causing germs like bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi, and to remove them from the body
- to recognize and neutralize harmful substances from the environment
- to fight disease-causing changes in the body, such as cancer cells
A number of different cells work together within the immune system. Each type of cell plays an important role in identifying, marking, and destroying harmful cells that enter or develop in the body.
B cells release antibodies to defend against harmful, invading cells.
CD4+ helper T cells send “help” signals to other immune cells to better direct their response.
CD8+ killer T cells destroy thousands of virus-infected cells in the body every day.
Dendritic cells digest foreign cells.
Macrophages engulf and destroy bacteria and other harmful cells.
Regulatory T cells provide checks and balances to make sure that the immune system does not overreact.
How can Yoga boost our immune system?
Yoga helps lower stress hormones that compromise the immune system and helps the lungs and respiratory tract to function properly, stimulates the lymphatic system to oust toxins from the body, and transports oxygenated blood to the various organs.
Many viruses and bacteria live inside our bodies without doing any harm until the body’s internal environment becomes unbalanced. Then they start to attack.
By practising yoga regularly we can help to stabilize our body’s environment so that viruses and bacteria have no chance.
Which poses are the best for our immune system?
Sitting and Breathing (Sukhasana and Pranayama) – Easy Pose and Breathing
- Find a comfortable seat with your legs either crossed or kneeling
- Your shoulders should be over your hips, head over your shoulders, slightly tuck the chin in, crown of your head tall
- Lengthen your spine as much as you can
- Hands on your knees, palms facing up, thumb and forefinger touching
- Stay for as long as you feel good and comfortable, but at least for 10 deep breaths
Half Lord of the Fishes (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
- Sit with your legs straight in front of you, plant your right foot on the outside of your left leg so the sole of your right foot is on the mat
- Keep the extended left foot flexed
- On an inhale, plant your right palm directly behind your lower back and bring your left elbow to the outside of your right knee
- Inhale to lift and lengthen your spine, exhale to twist and shift the gaze over the right shoulder
- Stay for 5 breaths on each side
Supported Fish Pose (Matsyasana Variation)
Supported Fish Pose also targets the lungs, so it can help open up and relieve congestion.
- Grab your yoga bolster or block or a rolled up blanket
- Lie down on your rolled up blanket which should end at the middle of your back and the top of the blanket roll supports your head
- Relax your chest and shoulders and let your arms open wide, palms facing up
- Legs can either be out straight or bent with feet as wide as your mat and the knees touching in the center
- Stay in this pose for 1-5 minutes
Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
Forward Fold is the perfect gentle inversion to boost immunity. Inverted postures and forward bends bring prana and blood flow to the sinuses, which can help ease congestion. Sinuses and our mucus membranes are our body’s first line of defense against infection.
- Start from standing with your feet hip distance apart
- Slowly hinge at the hips, bent your knees a little when you fold forward
- Let your hands hang down or rest on the floor, on your ankles, calves or thighs whereever you reach
- Stay there for 5-10 breaths or as long as it feels good
- Coming out of this pose, roll up very slowly to prevent any dizziness
Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)
Legs Up the Wall is one of the very important poses for boosting your immune system.
- Lie on your back and swing your legs up onto the wall, so the back of your thighs rest against the wall
- Allow your entire spine to rest heavy on the mat or floor beneath you, and relax your arms by your sides or on your stomach
- You might add some weight on top of your feet to feel even more grounded
- Stay there for up to 10 minutes
Wide-legged forward bend
- From Mountain pose, step the legs 3-4 feet apart
- With a flat back exhale and bring the
palms to the floor under the shoulders
the arms to pull the forehead down towards the floor, bending the elbows
- Press into the feet, lengthening the legs to
press the hips up toward the ceiling
- Feel the spine being pulled in opposite directions as you press the head down and lift the hips up
- Hold for 3-8 breaths
- To release, reach the arms out to the sides and come back to mountain pose
Revolved wide-legged forward bend (Parivrtta Prasarita Padottanasana)
- Begin again in Mountain pose, feet apart, wider than your hips, toes and heels turned slightly outand
- Place your hands to your hips and hinge forward to fold, hands underneath your head
- Press into one palm and stack your wrist under your shoulder
- Twist your torso and lift your opposite arm up and follow your gaze to your top hand
- Weight forward, hips and ankles in line
- Come out slowly and do the other side
Upward Salute (Urdhva Hastasana)
- Slowly stand up tall
- Bring your feet hip-width apart
- Interlace your fingers and extend your arms up
- Lift your heels, balancing on the balls of your feet
- Take 5 to 10 breaths, lower your heels and your arms
Extended hand-to-big-toe pose
(Utthita Hasta Padangusthasana III)
- Stand tall and shift your weight to your left foot
- Lift your right knee and interlace fingers underneath
- Grasp your right foot with your left hand
- Twist right and extend your right arm
- Exit the twist, return to standing
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, arms at your sides, turn left
- On an exhalation step your feet wide apart, heels aligned with each other
- Right foot out 90 degrees, toes pointing to top of mat
- Left foot inward at 45 degrees
- Bend your right knee over your right ankle, shin perpendicular to floor, raise arms overhead, palms facing each other
- Press your weight into your right foot, lift your left leg, body parallel to ground, arms reaching forward
- Left foot flexed, reach out through your heel
- Leg muscles actively engaged, straighten your standing leg and continue to lift your left leg
- Bring your torso, hips, arms and raised leg parallel to the floor.
- Stretch your whole body, gaze at the floor in front of you
- Hold for 30 seconds, come out by lowering your left foot back to the floor and lowering your arms
- Repeat on the opposite side
- Start by being on your hands and knees, wrists under your shoulders
- Spread your finders and put pressure down through forearms and hands
- Look down between your hands, lengthen your neck, draw in your abdominal muscles
- Bring your toes in and step back, body and head one line
- Pelvic floor muscles towards your spine, head in line with your spine
- Press the front of your thighs up towards the ceiling
- Hold for up to 5 minutes
Downward Facing Dog
(Adho Mukha Svanasana)
- Start being on your hands and knees
- Hands in front of your shoulders
- Press back
- Raise your knees from the floor
- Lift your tailbone up
- Push your heels toward the floor
Hold for 5 to 10 breaths and repeat 5 times
- Lie on your back with your shoulders at the edge of 2 to 3 folded blankets
- Engage your core and use momentum to lift your hips and legs up and over until the balls of your feet touch the floor
- Interlace your fingers behind you
- Stay as long as you feel comfortable
- Come out slowly bringing your feet back and rolling vertebra by vertebra down to the floor
Supported shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana)
- Begin lying on your back with your arms by your sides, then bend your knees and place the soles of your feet on the floor
- Exhaling contract your abdominal muscles and press your upper arms into the floor to lift your feet and lower back away from the floor, then bring your thighs towards your chest
- Bend your elbows and bring your hands to your lower back
- Spread your palms across your back and lift your hips until they are positioned over your shoulders
- Your elbows should be shoulder distance apart, weight on shoulders and upper arms
- Inhaling extend your bent knees and straighten your legs
- Relax your face and throat, bring your gaze towards your chest
- Remain in this pose for up to 15 breaths
- Come out by bending your knees, bring your arms back and roll down vertebra by vertebra
How to incorporate practise in your daily routine?
This is really tricky and I know from my own experience that it is very hard. Some people like to do yoga in the mornings before they start their day and others prefer the evening. But in both cases you might think that in the morning you are not able to move before having your first coffee and in the evening you might be too tired. You have to try for yourself what works best for you and if you have started to practise for about 2 to 3 weeks, it will become a routine and you will not want to miss this time – it is time for yourself and very precious and you will find that it will change your life – so do not give up when at the beginning it seems too hard!
Let me know how you get on!
Please let me know how it works for you or let me have any questions or suggestions via my email firstname.lastname@example.org. I will reply to all mails. I wish you good luck with staying safe and well and beat the virus!