Yoga to boost the immune system

The main way in which yoga boosts the immune system is in calming the central nervous system and allowing the body to get on with it’s own healing. So all the ways in which a yoga practice undoes the stress response will also boost the immune system. This includes things like slow movements, deep breathing and the relaxation session at the end of many yoga classes.

The class I developed for my students was in the evening, perfectly timed for the gentle forward bends that calm the mind and ease the body. I included head movements to ease tension in the neck and shoulders therefore encouraging true relaxation at the end of the class. There were also some gentle postures for easing out the hips, including a sequence based on this video from Baxter Bell. Another area where tension can collect and impede the nurturing we need when the immune system is under pressure.

There are pranayama or breathing exercises that boost the immune system too. Focus on those that increase the length of your exhale. In my class I taught a simple exercise to extend the exhale in stages. You can try this yourself by following these instructions:
*Start with an equal length inhale and exhale, sitting with that rhythm for 6 breaths.
*Lengthen the exhale by just 1 count and stay with the new count for 6 breaths.
*Finally extend the exhale by another count so the exhale is 2 counts longer than the inhale.
*Stay with this rhythm for 6-8 breaths then release the count on the breath altogether.
*Allow the breath to return to its own natural rhythm and open the eyes.

Adrienne Mishler who records some wonderful free yoga videos has one called ‘Pranayama Potion’. It lasts for 20 minutes and is well worth a go if you have the time.

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