Fortunately, we are all talking about HEALTH now! How to stay healthy, how to lead a healthier life and so on. Solution is within us – our Immune System, we just have to support it. For that too we have to go nowhere. We Indians are blessed by great genius ancestors who still guide us through their brilliant philosophies and literature. All we need to do is search through the treasures for the gems in it. Yoga is such a gem which is the most simple and natural way for physical, mental and spiritual well being.
By incorporating Yoga into our routines, we can significantly strengthen our body’s Immune system. If practiced regularly and properly with the guidance of an expert yoga trainer, it will detoxify our body, keep our vital organs functioning well, help to reduce chronic inflammation due to aging, increase self healing capacity of our body and help to attain inner peace.
As we all know chronic stress weakens our Immune system. Using yogic postures with yogic breathing can reduce stress hormones and cytokine, CRP like pro-inflammatory molecules in our body. They also help in reducing stress related eating and other unhealthy behaviors that negatively impact our immune system. Addiction to unhealthy substances such as cigarettes, drugs or too much alcohol can weaken our Immune system by damaging cells, suppressing immune function and causing inflammation. Yoga techniques assist in changing such harmful habits. Latest studies suggest that Yoga and Pranayama may increase beneficial genes in some of our White Blood Cells, which may ultimately improve our overall immune function.
We were talking about yoga in general and about Pranayama, now coming to the Yogasanas (Yogic postures). Active practice of asanas (poses) promotes overall health, keeping our body strong at the same time flexible and helping our Cardiovascular - Respiratory - Digestive systems function optimally. Certain asanas can influence the endocrine system too and help support, balance and boost immunity. We can have a look into a few simple and useful asanas for daily practice.
Pada hasthasanam- Stretches back and leg muscles, improves digestion and eliminates many stomach ailments. It makes the spine flexible and tones the nerves.
Pavana muktasanam-strengthens digestive system and cures gastric problems. Good for acidity, arthritic pain, heart problems, hypertension and in diabetes.
Bhujangasanam –stretches shoulder, chest and abdominal muscles. It soothes mind, energizes body thus good for anxiety and depression.
Matsyasanam-Stretches and stimulates the muscles and organs of the belly and throat. It is good for the thyroid gland. Stimulates rib cage and lungs.
Savasanam-Most important Asana. It helps relieve stress and relaxes the whole body. It reduces fatigue and insomnia. It boosts our energy level.
We can practice these asanas with normal breathing and can sustain in a pose for maximum 8 breaths. We should relax for a few minutes after each asanas.
Technically, Pranayama is an integral part of Yoga itself. Pranayama is conscious breathing or mindful breathing. While focusing on our breathing, it becomes slow and deep. Deep breathing will utilize maximum capacity of our lungs. By regular practice we automatically get tuned to abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing which makes efficient use of muscles of that area and thus improve the pulmonary functions such as Vital Capacity, Tidal Volume and Expiratory Reserve Volume. Many researches conducted regarding the connection of Pranayama and the lung functions which all get the same conclusion that it has a dramatic positive change which stated above. Pranayama may correct our abnormal breathing pattern and reduce muscle tone of respiratory muscles. The slow and gentle breathing of Pranayama like anuloma-viloma (inhaling and exhaling) will reduce the frictional stress and thereby stabilize the mast cell de-granulation which help our immune system to function well. Pranayama also eases our lymphatic flow. Some studies reported that it can change genetic activity of WBC (immune cells) and significantly increase the WBC count to help fight illness.
Anuloma-Viloma is the simplest form of Pranayama to practice for beginners. This needs a few minutes from our busy life to learn and practice this simple technique with amazing effects.
- Keep the spine and neck straight. You may sit in a comfortable position (sukhasana) - on the ground or on a chair.
- Close the right nostril with the right thumb and exhale completely through the left nostril.
- Then keeping the right nostril shut, slowly inhale through the left nostril till the lungs are filled to the maximum.
- Release the thumb and close the left nostril with the ring and little fingers of the right hand at the same time and breath out very slowly through the right nostril.
- Slowly inhale again through the right nostril and release through left after closing the right nostril with right thumb.
This is one complete cycle of anuloma-viloma pranayama. To begin with, three to five such cycles may be done. If even this is complicated, just start by simply sitting and observing our normal breathing pattern and slowly initiate the cycle. Practitioners proficient in may even go up to 50 rounds! It will take only 5-10 minutes of our daily schedule but it offers amazing solutions for various issues.
Main things we should keep in mind while practicing Pranayama and Asana:
- Timings- Morning and evening preferably Early mornings.
- Food intake: 3-4 hrs after food. That is almost in an empty stomach.
- Bath: After taking a bath it is good to practice both.
As mentioned above an expert supervision is necessary for the beginners.