Autumn is by far my favorite season, and if you’re like me, you welcome the chilly air and bright colors that indicate it’s finally here. However, this time of year can be tough on our immune systems.
Even if you’re one of the annoying ones who says “I never get sick”, we are all exposed to the extra germs that float around during the fall and winter months. That said, it’s wise to take preventative measures to ensure that our bodies are functioning as efficiently as possible to ward off potential colds.
One of my favorite ways of doing this is through my yoga practice. Many yoga poses stimulate and strengthen the circulatory, digestive, nervous, and endocrine systems, all of which are connected to our immune system.
Here are my three favorite immune-strenghtening poses and favorite simple breathing exercise. They can be done casually, i.e. without putting on yoga clothes or heading into a studio. Working them into your everyday routine would give you optimal results, but if this is unrealistic for you even doing them 2-3 times a week is great for your health.
Bow pose puts pressure on the belly, making the digestive system stronger and healthier by increasing blood flow to the abdominal organs.
Lie down on your belly, keeping your arms alongside your body. Tuck your chin toward your chest to lengthen your neck. If comfortable, rest your forehead on the mat. Bend your knees and reach for your feet or your ankles. Smoothly and slowly, lift your head up off the floor, raising your chin and chest. Press your feet back into your hands, gently lifting your knees off the floor. In the full posture, the knees and the chest come up to the same height off the floor. Breathe slowly and deliberately into your belly. If your breath is short and choppy, you’re overstraining. Once your muscles begin to tire, after five to eight breaths, release the pose slowly. Rest on your belly, turning your head to either side. Repeat several more times and enjoy the sensation that follows.
Because your head is lower then you heart in this pose, it has all the benefits of a full on inversion (handstand, headstand, etc.) but is much more relaxing. This pose boosts immunity by increasing circulation up towards the heart and face. It also stretches the low spine, massages and tones the abdominal organs, and stimulates digestion.
Kneel on the floor. Touch your bigs toes together. Sit back onto your heels letting your torso stretch long over your thighs. Let forehead rest gently on the floor or on a blanket. Stretch arms out long overhead. Release any abdominal tension, letting your belly rest between or on your thighs.
This posture is therapeutic and revitalizing. Your head is below your heart. This allows blood to rush to your head giving your cells a rejuvenating boost of oxygen.
Stand with feet in a wide stance. (if you were to stretch out your arms, your ankles would be in line with your wrists)Keep feet parallel. Bend forward from the hips. Seat bones should be lifted up to the ceiling, and crown of head towards the mat. Make sure legs are straight and not hyper extended (by keeping a micro-bend in your knees). Let your head and neck hang heavy. Stay in this position for up to two minutes and then roll up slowly vertabrae by vertabrae until you are standing.
Alternate Nostril Breath:
This simple breathing technique is incredibly helpful in clearing our sinuses and nasal passages.
Sit comfortably and take a normal few breaths in and out through the nose. To begin, gently close your right nostril, leaving the left one open. Inhale through the left nostril, then close the left nostril and open the right, exhaling through the right side. Inhale on the right side, then close the right nostril, open the left and exhale through the left side. Continue this same pattern on each side for up to a minute.