Did you know yoga can strengthen your immune system? Asana practice improves your immunity in a variety of ways: It stimulates the lymphatic system, improves lung health, aids digestive fire, lowers stress, and improves sleep. Here are a few ways you can use yoga for immune system benefits.
Inversions and Folds for Lymphatic System Health
Practicing inversions and folds are some of the best ways yoga can help us boost our immunity. By going upside down, we increase movement of vital fluids throughout the body. This stimulates our lymphatic system, which clears out toxins and circulates white blood cells throughout our bodies (white blood cells are our bodies’ primary defense against disease and infection).
Inversions also help us circulate blood to our sinuses. This eases congestion and drains the lungs, protecting them from infection. If you’re looking to boost your lymphatic system and clear out toxins, try incorporating these asanas into your practice:
- Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog)
- Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
- Halasana (Plow Pose)
- Viparita Karani (Legs up the Wall)
Heart Openers for Lung Health and T-Cell Stimulation
Another way to improve our immunity is through asanas that expand and widen the chest. These poses, also known as heart openers, help defend against lung infections such as bronchitis or pneumonia by circulating blood around the chest and lungs, breaking up congestion, and spreading healthy cells throughout this area.
Heart openers also help stimulate the thymus, which is an organ located behind the chest bone that is responsible for the growth of T-cells (a specific type of white blood cell that fights cold and flu antigens).
Some immune-strengthening heart openers include:
- Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
- Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
- Dhanurasana (Bow Pose)
In addition, consider incorporating pranayama practice to strengthen the lungs and improve the flow of Prana.
Twists for Digestive Health
Our digestive systems play a major role in our immunity. In Ayurveda digestion is closely related to agni (digestive fire). An imbalanced or impaired agni can lead to disease. To maintain a healthy digestive fire, we need to nourish our bodies with healthy food, eating habits, and lifestyle practices.
One of the ways yoga can kindle agni is through twisting poses:
- Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes Pose)
- Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle Pose)
- Parivrtta Parsvakonasana (Revolved Side Angle Pose)
- Jathara Parivartanasana (Reclined Spinal Twist)
Yoga Nidra for Rest
A restful night’s sleep is necessary for a healthy immune system. Yoga practice naturally calms the nervous system and mind, and has been shown to contribute to deeper sleep.
In addition, we can also use yoga to practice rest during waking hours. Yoga nidra is a systematic method to bring about physical, mental, and emotional relaxation, self-awareness and restoration. It is said that a 30 minute yoga nidra practice is equivalent to 2-3 hours of deep sleep. Next time you need more rest, try attending a Yoga Nidra class.
All Yoga for Stress Relief
Stress severely compromises our immune system. Fortunately, nearly all types of yoga help us reduce stress. With regular practice, we can train our parasympathetic stress response to tolerate stress. We can also use single sessions to reduce current stress levels. Some of the best asanas for stress relief include:
- Balasana (Child’s Pose)
- Savasana (Corpse Pose)
- Marjaryasana / Bitilasana (Cat / Cow Pose)
- Paschimottanasana (Seated Forward Bend)
- Ananda Balasana (Happy Baby Pose)
Laughter Yoga for Immunity
A good genuine laugh has many mental health benefits, but it also boosts our physical immunity. According to Laughter Yoga founder Madan Kataria, laughter “raises both pulse rate and blood pressure, stimulating and toning the circulatory system, and strengthens the respiratory system by utilizing the entire capacity of the lungs. Prana—or life force—he explains, gains entry to our bodies via breathing, so clear respiratory passages and strong lungs are essential to the well-being of both body and spirit.”
Laughter also increases endorphins and improves personal satisfaction. Ayurveda tells us that the mind has a profound influence on the body so staying positive and mentally well is very important to immunity.
If you’re looking for a fun way to boost your physical and mental health for immunity, consider Laughter Yoga.
To fully reap the benefits of Yoga for immunity, remember that consistent practice is key. Over time, yoga strengthens our bodies and minds, which leads to strong natural defense mechanisms.
You might also consider supercharging your practice of yoga for immune system benefits by taking a spoonful of Chyawanprash 15 minutes before you begin practice. Chyawanprash is an ancient medicinal jam made from health-boosting spices, herbs, honey, jaggery, sesame oil and ghee. Learn more about Chyawanprash for immunity and lung function and how to use Ayurveda for immunity.
Reviewed by Dr. Jayant Lokhande, MD (Botanical Drugs), MBA (Biotechnology)