Vitamin C and the zinc-based homeopathic remedy, Zicam, are all-natural cold deterrents that boost immune system function. Annual flu shots are a smart investment, but they only target the most prominent strain of influenza anticipated to impact the public that year. Yoga lovers will be pleased to know that regular practice boosts the body's immune system, keeping the common cold and other illnesses at bay.
As you may have guessed, there is some science behind the positive correlation between yoga and improved and regulated immune function. First, it's necessary to understand what the immune system is, exactly. The body's immune system is made up of antibodies: white blood cells, tissues, the nervous system, and organs that coalesce and coordinate to protect the body from foreign, unknown bodies which are identified as threats (disease-causing substances or organisms known as antigens). Healthy immune systems neutralize antigens. Weakened immune systems or antigens that are stronger than antibodies result in illness. The vagus nerve is a very long nerve that runs throughout almost our entire body (cranial down to the extremities). Yoga poses and connected pranayamic breathing boosts the function and stimulates the vagus, which is responsible for reducing anti-inflammatory properties of the entire body and thus, boosting the immune system as well. According to William Broad's book, The Science of Yoga, chronic inflammation leads to life-threatening illnesses such as sepsis, lupus, pancreatitis, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Yoga also gives the immune system a boost by stimulating the production of cortisol, a special stress-fighting hormone excreted by the adrenal gland which boosts immune function, at least temporarily. This may help lessen the severity or duration of a cold.
Pour yourself a large glass of orange juice or echinacea tea and prepare to combat the seasonal flu with a few simple immune-boosting poses:
- Standing Forward Bend: sends blood circulating to the head, helping regulate sinuses
- Legs up the Wall Pose: circulates blood to the groin area and facilitates deep breathing
- Supported Bridge Pose (with a bolster lengthwise): opens heart chakra and regulates breathing, clearing up congestion in the chest
Yoga acts as a preventative measure against the cold and other seasonal illnesses. If you are already experiencing symptoms, gentle or restorative yoga is recommended. Overdoing it (hot yoga, power yoga, and vigorous vinyasa flow) can cause adverse problems like cramps, nausea and vomiting, doing more harm than good.