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Yoga- An Immune System Booster?

By Nana Bonah 

 

I started doing yoga (remotely) and the teacher mentions yoga boosts the immune system. I wondered if that was true and did some research to find out, because we all need our immune system to be boosted nowadays.

Right now, lots of us are stretching, pilates-ing, cardio-ing and yoga-ing safely at home. I’m a yo-yo yogi, I begin to practice regularly then situations get in the way and sometimes I just get lazy. But since we’re using our time to rest, bake banana bread and a slew of other things, I’ve been consistent with my practice. I’ve chosen yoga as my way to move after sitting in on endless Zoom calls. 

I’ve always reached for the flexibility and muscle toning that comes from yoga. And conscious breathing for a few minutes is effective to unload the mind and the body. But yoga and the immune system? I couldn’t see the connection between the two. 

Yoga is an ancient Indian practice dating back a time so long ago that researchers cannot agree on a definite period. The practice is categorized as mind-body therapy, therefore involving meditation, deep breathing, awareness and physical postures aka asana. Such therapies are increasing in popularity as we reach for natural remedies to heal. 

Unto the immune system: this is your body’s protection against pathogens. It seriously goes to war for you to destroy pathogens by assembling its soldiers which include skin, mucous, chemicals in saliva, phagocytes, natural killer cells (scary name, I know) and white blood cells among other chemical arsenals. 

A sign that your immune system is activated is the inflammatory response (heat, swelling, pain). This response is part of the natural healing process when you’re ill. So, inflammation is not all bad. The problem comes when your body is inflamed—on fire—all the time in absence of any health insults. You do not want the inside of your body raging with uncontrolled fire, it interferes with normal functioning and leads to serious health issues. 

You know what else, besides pathogens, causes inflammation? Stress! No wonder you may feel sick when stressed. 

Okay so yoga, immune system, stress. Yoga...stress...yoga...stress...yoga...deep breaths...yoga...cat-cow...plank-cobra-downward facing dog...child’s pose...de-stress. 

De-stressing equals a decrease in inflammation, hence the immune system is performing at an optimal level to bring the body back to its balanced state. Turns out, it’s the act of exercising—moving your body any way you please for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity (dancing to a playlist of all-time favorites totally counts!)— that helps to reduce the risk of unwanted inflammatory response. So while meditation and deep breaths are excellent tools to calm the mind, incorporate some Vinyasa poses to get all the immune benefits from yoga. 

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