Yoga

Yoga for Immunity and Well-Being

yoga at home

It is understandable to be flooded with worry about the developing pandemic of the coronavirus (COVID-19). News and social media feed the frenzy and the world is abuzz with uncertainty. Preparedness and precautions are recommended, necessary, and helpful, but did you know that medical experts have found that fear and anxiety actually weaken the immune system? Guiding yourself to be a beacon of calm during these unsettling times provides numerous benefits for yourself and others.

How Yoga and Meditation Can Help Boost Your Immunity

Fortunately, you can take an active role in overcoming fear and anxiety and other overwhelming emotional states. The physical practices of yoga and mindful meditation can actually help boost the immune system. According to Yoga Journal Magazine, “Yoga helps lower stress hormones that compromise the immune system, while also conditioning the lungs and respiratory tract, stimulating the lymphatic system to oust toxins from the body, and bringing oxygenated blood to the various organs to ensure their optimal function.”

Yoga practices can help you stay calm—and staying calm is one of the recommendations for keeping the “greater good” during the outbreak of COVID-19. The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, recommends four ways to “keep the greater good” during this difficult time of the coronavirus outbreak. Jill Suttie, who wrote the piece, describes that it is important to look to those who are helping for inspiration and optimism, stay calm and focused, show gratitude, and remember our common humanity and show compassion. Yoga can help you with almost all of these recommendations!

Yoga practices intentionally help you stay calm and focused and practice compassion toward yourself and others. During these panic-inducing times, you may ask, “How can I stay calmer and make wiser choices?” Suttie says, “One way is to use whatever tools you have at your disposal for keeping a cool head—like practicing mindfulness, which has been shown to both lessen emotional reactivity and help us make better decisions.” So! Turn to the ancient practices for well-being that have been shown, historically and contemporarily, to help us maintain health.

Even though local recommendations may suggest that you stay home from the yoga studio (or your local gym) if you are feeling well, you can certainly practice yoga on your own at home. Various online yoga resources such as Glo, YogaAnytime, or The Happiness and Bliss Online Yoga Kula provide easy access to a meaningful practice. You could put on a yoga video by your favorite instructor. Or you can create your own yoga space at home and practice solo. Linked here are some helpful tips for creating your own home yoga practice. Meditation, of course, can also be practiced anywhere, anytime.

Even though we are collectively going through this challenging time, it’s also true that stress isn’t all bad. According to psychology professor and author Kelly McGonigal, “New research shows that stress can make us stronger, smarter, and happier—if we learn how to embrace it.” You can transform anxiety into courage and take it upon yourself to boost your own immunity through healthful practices such as mindful handwashing, rest, and gentle yoga.

What follows is a simple yoga sequence designed to induce calm and promote immunity.

Each of these poses, practiced on their own from one to five minutes, can help relax the body. Practicing these poses together as a sequence will prolong the beneficial effects of restoring the nervous system. Try practicing these poses by yourself at home or with your family or a friend if everyone is feeling well.

Crocodile Pose

crocodile pose

This pose is practiced by coming down onto the ground and resting in a prone position. The closeness to the earth makes this posture grounding and calming. The gentle pressure of the abdomen against the earth can be relaxing. The soft pressure on the forehead stimulates the pineal gland, or energetically, the third eye, and helps induce a calming response. Think savasana, but upside down.

Try it:

  • To practice this pose, come down onto your belly and extend your legs long behind you. Place a blanket beneath your pelvis for added comfort.
  • Bend your elbows out to the side and stack your palms one on top of the other.
  • Rest your forehead on the back of your hands. Alternatively, you could rest your arms down by your sides with the palms facing up and turn your head to one side.
  • Allow your heels to flop out to the sides and your legs and low back to completely relax.
  • Soften your belly and begin deep breaths.
  • Tune into your breath to feel your abdomen expand and release intentionally. Tune into your breath to feel your whole body rise and fall with each inhale and exhale.
  • Hold for one to five minutes and then release.

Child’s Pose

childs pose

This pose is practiced by kneeling on the ground and nestling your hips back toward your heels while bowing forward. The closeness to the earth makes this pose grounding. The gentle pressure of your abdomen against your thighs and the folding forward action can be reflective and restorative. The soft pressure on the forehead stimulates the pineal gland, or energetically, the third eye, and helps induce a calming response.

Try it:

  • To practice this pose, come down to hands and knees. Bring your big toes to touch. You could place a blanket beneath your knees for added comfort. Widen your knees as much or as little as is suitable for you today.
  • Sit your hips back toward your heels and begin to bow forward.
  • Reach your arms forward or relax them back besides your legs.
  • Rest your forehead on the yoga mat, your stacked palms, or a yoga block. Soften where you can and begin deep breaths.
  • Tune into your breath to feel your low back expand and release intentionally. Tune into your breath to feel your whole body rise and fall with each inhale and exhale.
  • Hold for one to five minutes and then release.

Supine Twist

supine twist

This pose is practiced by reclining onto your back and turning both legs in one direction. The supine nature of this pose allows for grounding and a sense of stability. The gentle pressure of the twisting action helps nourish the vital organs in the abdomen with fresh oxygen-rich blood. The twisting action also helps relax the hard-working back muscles that help support the spine. There is also the intention to “twist the issues out of your tissues” that can help you feel a release of anything that may feel “stuck” physically, mentally, psychologically, and spiritually.

Try it:

  • To practice this pose, come down onto your back.
  • Hug both knees into your chest.
  • Extend your arms out to your sides like a “T” and take a big breath in.
  • As you breathe out, roll your knees over to one side. Allow your feet, knees, and legs to rest on the ground. Arrange your limbs so that you feel comfortable. You could place a blanket or bolster between your knees for added comfort.
  • Turn your head in the opposite direction of your knees as your neck allows.
  • Tune into your breath to a gentle massage of your torso and back with each inhale and exhale. Hold for one to five minutes and then release.

Leg Stretches with a Strap

leg stretch with band

This pose is practiced by reclining onto your back and hooking one foot at a time into a yoga strap or belt. The supine nature of this pose allows for grounding. The release in the backs of the legs and groins from these stretches attends to the root chakra, and helps initiate a sense of stability. You could place a blanket beneath your low back and head for added comfort.

Try this:

  • To practice this pose, come down onto your back.
  • Hook the strap around the bottom of your right foot and extend that leg into the air. Hold onto the straps with both hands while relaxing your shoulders down onto the ground.
  • Explore any stretches in your leg by bending and extending your knee, opening your leg out to the side, and/or crossing the leg over the torso for a twist. Play and explore intuitively.
  • Tune into your breath to help relax your hamstrings, hips, and low back with each inhale and exhale.
  • Hold for one to five minutes on one leg and then release and repeat on the other leg.

Practice these grounding, calming, and restorative poses to maintain your own health and immunity during this stressful time. You will help yourself and others by staying positive and healthy. The ancient practices of yoga and meditation will guide you on your way to calm.