Fall is upon us, and as we begin to transition into the cold and flu season, we should start to think about how we can boost our immune systems preemptively. By eating healthy and staying fit throughout the year, we can keep our immune systems strong and less susceptible to the illnesses that tend to plague us during the fall and winter months. Maintaining a consistent yoga practice keeps the immune system strong and healthy, ready to fight off any bug that may try to take up its abode in the body. One of the most influential figures in modern day yoga, Indra Devi, stated that with yoga, “You will be able to enjoy better sleep, a happier disposition, a clearer and calmer mind. You will learn how to build up your health and protect yourself against colds, fevers, constipation, headaches, fatigue, and other troubles.”
Yoga is unique in that it benefits nearly all of the systems in your body. It stimulates the circulatory, digestive, nervous, and endocrine systems, which are all linked to the immune system. It detoxifies and oxygenates the body, promotes circulation and keeps the white blood cells moving about the body, fighting off invaders. It stimulates the lymphatic system and helps you eliminate toxins. Yoga also improves digestion, and we know that healthy digestion is a fundamental building block to total overall health. Yoga also helps balance the hormones and reduce fatigue.
The endocrine system works with the nervous system and the immune system to help the body fight bacterial and viral invaders. Yoga benefits the endocrine system by decreasing the stress hormones that negatively impact the immune system and deplete it of strength. If you are getting sick often then your immune system is not strong enough, and for many of us the culprit is stress.
Notably, yoga helps reduce inflammation. Inflammation can lead to chronic disease and is the cause of many of the ailments we experience. A recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that in a trial conducted with two groups of breast cancer survivors, the group that practiced yoga during a three-month period had 10-15% lower markers for inflammation than the group who did not practice yoga. Thanks to the current popularity of such an ancient practice, in conjunction with advancements in science, the long touted benefits of yoga are now being scientifically proven.
Along with the biological benefits of practicing yoga, there are the numerous emotional and psychological benefits that yoga introduces. Yoga teaches you mindfulness and awards you with a greater sense of inner peace by helping you to focus on the present, release the past, and worry less about the future. Simply by learning how to breathe fully and deeply, the mind is calmed, stress hormones are reduced, and your overall wellbeing is significantly improved. Yoga has the ability to bring ease to the body and mind by helping you to release emotions that accumulate in your body and often lead to physical and/or mental dis-ease. It helps us to move forward and let go of the old.
In general, yoga and meditation foster a more relaxed state of being, which keeps us from running ourselves ragged, and reminds us to take time to care for ourselves body, mind and spirit. Meditation also reduces the instances of illness by decreasing cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and increasing endorphins.
Leap into this new season with a fresh perspective on wellness by taking a preventative stance on illness. You will be amazed at how much more easily you are able to stave off sickness when you practice yoga regularly. It works on both the body and mind to create a healthy temple, strong enough to fend off the invaders of cold and flu season, and even those winter blues. Certainly the change of seasons is always a good opportunity to transition out of old ways and into new, more life-giving ways. Take the time to assess where you are at spiritually, emotionally and physically, and just as nature begins its cycle of death and rebirth, let this be a time of releasing that which no longer serves you, and beginning to cultivate new ways of thinking and being; ways that bring strength, vitality and joy to your being.