You’re eating properly, getting enough sleep, supplementing wisely and exercising like you should. Want another way to support your immune system?
“Yoga for immunity is a thing,” says yoga teacher and health care coachTeresa Adele. “A consistent yoga practice, along with certain poses in particular, can support and boost the immune system.”
Yoga helps reduce stress, which has been found toweaken the immune system. And it improves circulation, which keeps your body’s microbe-hunting white blood cells on the move and flushes toxins from your tissues.
The following sequence includes some of the poses thought to bolster immunity. If you need help in doing them properly, or if you need a pose sequence that’s more in line with your physical capabilities, look for aregistered yoga teacher in your area.
This pose is a good warmup that opens up the chest, which helps the lungs, and aids in easing stress.1. Stand with your arms at your sides and feet together. Slowly lift your arches and ankles, squeezing the outer shins toward one another.
2. Release your shoulder blades, elongate your neck and make sure your ears, shoulders, hips and ankles are in a straight line.
3. Face the palms forward and reach toward the floor, then sweep your arms out to the side and up over your head. Straighten the arms without locking the elbow joint and press the palms together.
Standing Forward Bend
“Forward Fold is the perfect gentle inversion to boost immunity,” says Adele. She notes that this pose brings circulation to the sinuses, which is important because “sinuses and our mucus membranes are our body’s first line of defense against infection.”1. Stand with your feet next to each other and your hands on your hips.
2. Bend forward from the hip joints as you exhale, and draw in your torso to open the space between the sternum and thighs.
3. Bring your fingertips or palms to the backs of your ankles, with your knees as straight as possible (don’t lock them). If you can’t do that, cross the forearms and hold your elbows.
4. As you continue to breathe, lengthen and lift the front of your torso to get more fully into the forward bend. Allow your head to hang between your shoulder blades.
5. Remain in this pose for 30–60 seconds. As you come back up, bring your hands to your hips and press the tailbone down and into the pelvis.
Backbends help strengthen the lungs and support the adrenal glands, which produce stress-response hormones.1. Stand in Mountain Pose, using your core to lift your upper body.
2. Place your hands on your lower back directly above your rear. Then breathe in and let your body lift and bend backward.
3. Hold for five deep breaths, then come back up slowly.
Downward Facing Dog
“This pose increases your circulation yet still provides grounded energy,” says chiropractor and yoga instructorEmily Kiberd, DC. “Bonus: It allows congested sinuses to drain.”1. Get down on all fours, hips directly over your knees and hands slightly ahead of your shoulders.
2. Spread your hands and turn your toes inward then lift your knees off the floor. At first, keep your knees bent and your heels slightly raised. Afterward, straighten your spine, but be careful not to do a backbend.
3. Press the bases of your index fingers into the floor before flattening your shoulder blades and drawing them towards your tailbone (don’t let your head hang down).
4. Stay in the pose for three long breaths, then come out of the pose by bending your knees and bringing them back to the floor.
“The theory behind twists helping our immunity is that improper digestion causes toxins to build up,” says Adele. “Yoga poses that gently compress, twist or stimulate the stomach can help with digestive issues.”1. Sit tall on your mat with your legs extended straight in front of you. Place your hands on the mat behind you, fingers pointed away.
2. Bend your right leg over your left, placing your right foot next to your left thigh.
3. Twist your torso gently to the right, grasping your right knee with your left hand and keeping your right hand behind you for balance.
4. Come out of the pose by twisting your torso back to the starting position. Then bring your right leg back to meet the left and place the left hand behind you as at the start.
5. Repeat on the other side.
“This pose is believed to stimulate the thymus, an organ located behind the chest bone that is responsible for the growth of T-cells, your body's first response to the cold or flu,” says Kiberd.1. Lie on your stomach, then place your hands under your shoulders with your elbows pointing straight back, close to your sides. Spread your fingers wide.
2. Slowly raise your torso and head, supporting yourself on your hands; most of your weight should be in the palms. The arms should be bent at the elbows. Keep your navel pressed to the floor.
3. Arch your neck slightly backwards and look up, then press your toes into the floor before extending them out.
4. Hold 5–10 seconds before lowering your torso.
In addition to supporting digestion and helping relieve stress, this pose also opens up the hips and stimulates the kidneys. And it just plain feels good!1. Lie on your back. As you exhale, bend your knees into your abdomen. While inhaling, grab the outsides of your feet (if that’s problematic, hold onto a belt looped over each sole.)
2. Open your knees slightly wider than your torso, then bring them up toward your armpits.
3. Stack your ankles directly over your knees (shins should be perpendicular to the floor) and flex your feet.
4. Gently push your feet up as you pull your hands down. Then start to gently rock back and forth for up to a minute before coming out of the pose.
“Arguably one of the most feel-good restorative variations, Supported Fish makes an already yummy pose feel even better, and is also a great yoga pose for immunity,” says Adele.
You can use a yoga bolster and/or blocks, or use a rolled-up blanket instead.1. If using blocks, place one on the mat under your heart center and one under the back of your head. (Start with the blocks on the lowest level and adjust as needed.) If using a bolster, place it on top of, or instead of, the blocks.
2. If you’re using a blanket, roll it up and position it so the blanket ends at the middle of your back and the top of the blanket roll supports your head.
3. Sit in front of the setup, facing away from it. Then slowly lean back, making sure your pelvis stays on the floor. Relax your chest and shoulders and let your arms open to the sides, palms facing up. You can keep your legs straight or bend your knees, bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees fall open.
4. Stay in this pose for up to 5 minutes.
Legs Up the Wall
“This should be your go-to pose to ground the nervous system, as it's thought in traditional yoga practice to boost immunity and keep stress at bay,” Kiberd says.
Place a yoga mat or folded blanket against a wall. Then:1. Sit on the mat or blanket with either hip as close to the wall as possible. Take a breath, and as you exhale, smoothly move your legs up the wall, turning to lie perpendicular to the wall with your shoulders firmly rooted to the ground. It may take a few tries—don’t get discouraged.
2. Soften the throat by gently lifting the base of your skull away from the back of the neck. Use a small neck support (a rolled-up hand towel is fine) if you need to.
3. Place your arms at your sides, palms facing up. Stay in this position for 5–15 minutes.
4. Be careful to not twist your spine as you come out of the pose.
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