By Bhavan Kumar
Is Yoga for immunity scientifically proven? Yoga has recently become increasingly popular in improving physical and mental health. Some believe yoga can boost immunity, but limited scientific evidence supports this claim. There are many different types of yoga, but most involve some combination of postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. Some research suggests that these practices may help to boost immunity by reducing stress levels and improving circulation. However, more research is needed to confirm these effects. If you want to try yoga for immunity, many classes and resources are available. Consult your doctor first, especially if you have any underlying medical conditions.
What About Exercise?
Exercise has many benefits for overall health, and boosting immunity is one of them. Researchers believe that moderate exercise can trigger the release of immune system cells and help fight off infection. Yoga is a great form of moderate exercise that can help boost immunity. A study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found that regular yoga practice was associated with increased levels of natural killer cells, which are important for fighting infection. In addition to the physical benefits of yoga, the practice can also help reduce stress levels. Stress is a known immune system suppressor, so keeping stress levels in check is another important way to boost immunity.
Is it All About Movement?
There is a lot of evidence to suggest that movement is a factor in boosting immunity. One study found that people who did yoga significantly increased their levels of immunoglobulin A, an antibody that helps fight infection. Other research has shown that physically active people have lower rates of colds, flu, and other respiratory infections. There are a few possible explanations for why movement might help boost immunity.
First, exercise can help reduce stress levels, and chronic stress can weaken the immune system. Second, physical activity can cause changes in the cells and fluids in the body, which might help fight off infection. Finally, movement may help improve circulation, allowing the body to transport immune cells where needed. So if you’re looking for ways to boost your immunity, adding extra movement to your day may be a good place to start.
Yoga is More Than Poses or Movement
What about Yogic techniques that don’t require much movement? Even though yoga, meditation, and pranayama have been around for centuries, there is still a lot of scientific research to be done to say that these practices help to boost immunity definitively. However, a few studies suggest that yoga and meditation may be beneficial for overall health and well-being, which can indirectly contribute to a stronger immune system.
A study published in Frontiers in Immunology found that “yoga reduces stress and anxiety, two known risk factors for immunosuppression.” Additionally, other research has shown that meditation can help to improve sleep quality, which is also linked to a strong immune system. While more research is needed in this area, the preliminary evidence indicates that yoga and meditation could help boost immunity.
Yoga for Immunity in Cool Seasons
The fall and winter seasons bring great beauty, a chance for introspection, and an opportunity to slow down. The fall and winter are also when many of us catch a cold or seasonal flu. Suppose you find that you get frequent colds during this time of year. In that case, you may want to consider incorporating Yoga asanas that are inversions into your practice to enhance the functioning of your immune system. Our immune systems are detrimentally affected by a poor diet, lack of restorative sleep, high stress, and environmental toxins. Prescription and non-prescription drugs and an unhealthy level of alcohol consumption can also negatively affect the immune system.
Power of Circulation
White blood cells circulate throughout our bodies via the lymphatic system is our bodies’ primary defense against disease and infection. The movement of vital fluids throughout the body through the lymphatic system is greatly increased with physical exercise. Inversions dramatically help to circulate white blood cells throughout the entire body. Additionally, any Yoga pose that places your head below your heart will help to circulate fresh blood and nutrients throughout the brain, lifting mental fogginess and improving memory.
Accessible Yoga Pose
A very accessible Yoga asana that is quite effective for boosting the functioning of the immune system is Wide-Legged Forward Fold. Other inversions such as Headstand, Handstand, Upward Facing Bow, and Plow Pose will also help to boost your immune system. Even a restorative pose such as Child’s Pose places the head below the heart and helps to increase the functioning of the lymphatic system and, therefore, the immune system.
Wide-Legged Forward Fold
To practice Wide-Legged Forward Fold, stand at the front of your Yoga mat in Samasthiti or Equal Standing. Place your feet approximately three to four feet apart in a wide stance and parallel to the ends of your Yoga mat. With your next inhale, raise your arms to shoulder height with your palms facing down. Your wrists should be directly over your ankles. With your next exhale, bend forward as far as your level of flexibility allows. If you have the flexibility, grasp your big toes, feet, ankles, or shins with your hands. Hold this asana for three to five full breaths. To come out of the pose, place your hands on your hips, and with your next inhale, rise back up to a standing position bringing your feet back into Samasthiti at the front of your mat.
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Yoga for Immunity Studies
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S. Arora, J. Bhattacharjee. Modulation of immune responses in stress by Yoga. Int. J. Yoga, 1 (2008), 10.4103/0973-6131.43541
Suzuki, Katsuhiko, and Harumi Hayashida. 2021. “Effect of Exercise Intensity on Cell-Mediated Immunity” Sports 9, no. 1: 8
P.A. Balaji, S.R. Varne, S.S. Ali. Physiological effects of yogic practices and transcendental meditation in health and disease N. Am. J. Med. Sci., 4 (10) (2012), pp. 442-448, 10.4103/1947-2714.101980
S. Gautam, M. Kumar, U. Kumar, R. Dada. Effect of an 8-week yoga-based lifestyle intervention on psycho-neuro-immune Axis, disease activity, and perceived quality of life in rheumatoid arthritis patients: a randomized controlled trial.
Front. Psychol., 11 (2259) (2020), 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.02259
Yoga for Immunity Research
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