According to new research published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, certain yoga postures and “Pranayama” breathing can strengthen the immune system and decrease inflammation in the body.
“Researchers collectively reviewed 15 randomized controlled trials that examined whether the regular practice of yoga postures could strengthen the immune system and reduce chronic inflammation in the body. In the study, the average sample size of trials was 70 ranging from 11 to as many as 140 participants.”
The study indicates that psychological stress “can weaken the immune system and increase chronic inflammation. Short-term inflammation is a natural part of the immune response, helpful in healing wounds, injuries and infections but chronic inflammation can do more harm than good.”
Yoga helps to de-stress the body and mind, increasing the production of endorphins to maintain a positive state of mind and ward off infections.
Drs. Robin Monroe, R. Nagaratha and H. R. Nagendra, authors of “Yoga for Common Ailments” (Fireside, 1991) emphasize that “cold and flu infections, allergies, asthma and other chronic respiratory conditions are directly linked to a weakened immune response and disturbed, shallow breathing.”
However, if you are already practicing yoga which includes deep breathing like Pranayama, Kathleen Fry, M.D., president of the American Holistic Medical Associaton in Scottsdale, Arizona says, “Yoga works on everything, especially when practicing forward bends and inverted postures such as head stands that helps to ease congestion and drain the sinuses/lungs.”
Since colds and flu attack bronchial passages, Pranayama breathing can expand lung capacity. Rapid abdominal breathing along with daily nasal irrigation with a saline wash can also significantly reduce colds and strengthen the immune system.
Let’s practice Pranayama breathing. Sit with legs crossed and back straight. Slowly bring one hand up to the right nostril. Press the thumb against the right nostril to close it, as you deeply inhale through the left nostril. Then press the last two fingers of the right hand against the left nostril and exhale. Repeat these steps, slow alternating inhaling and exhaling through each separate nostril. Keep the mouth closed. This practice may feel awkward at first but don’t give up — perfect it!
To enhance Pranayama breathing, stand up and place the hands on the hips, raising both arms long and roll backwards to clear the lungs. Hold the posture. Researchers have discovered that pro-inflammatory markers can be reduced through 30 to 90 minutes of yoga inducing and stilling the mind in quiet meditation. (Falkenberg RI 2018, “Yoga and Immune system functioning”)
Finally, de-stress the mind and body as you finish the practice by laying on your back, closing the eyes and deeply inflating the lungs. As you quietly rest and calm the mind, focus on “no thoughts.” Relax and let all of Life’s concerns disappear.
Life is challenging every day but the goal is to be happy despite conditions. This idea and practice is a refreshing approach to each new day and the upcoming year. Enjoy feeling whole!