Yuck, Love, and Germs ALL at Once
Words from Amy Sosne, MD, mom of toddlers, and yoga instructor
After teaching a wonderful, energizing family yoga class to a loving group of yogis and a playlist in honor of upcoming Valentine’s Day, I thought to myself in the freezing rain outside “YUCK!” Strapping my 4 year old toddler into his carseat as he squirms and complains about the buckles, myself getting wetter and “YUCKY” all I could think about was the frustration and the intense amount of lion breathing (Inhale and exhale ROAR) we did in class. Ahhhhh – I thought of my breathing, love.
As my 4 year old son sneezed right on me, I thought to myself, “YUCK,” germs. My daughter yesterday sick with a fever and miraculously better today, I still thought germs! Hand sanitize! But then I remembered as well, that many yoga poses can really help boost the immune system. So now, we might not be able to conquer the YUCK weather, but we can fight the germs and just remain with love in this tundra like winter!
POSES TO BOOST IMMUNITY
First of all, a daily yoga practice in general can support the immune system just by lowering stress hormone levels such as cortisol that compromise the immune system. In addition, yoga teaches effective ways of breathing that condition the lungs and respiratory tract. Inversion poses in particular (even legs up against the wall) stimulate the lymphatic system, which boosts the immune system and allows more blood to flow to various parts of the body providing vital oxygen to allow these organs to function. Yoga takes the whole body into account unlike some other forms of exercise, although I don’t promote yoga as your sole source of exercise.
Inversion poses and even downward facing dog help relieve congestion from the sinuses and prevent secondary complications from sinus infections or the common cold (such as pneumonia) by draining the lungs.
Inversions effect the cardiovascular system by promoting venous return more easily to the heart and allowing the heart to exchange for oxygenated blood to pump to vital organs, allowing our bodies to optimally function. This benefit is similar to the benefits to the cardiovascular system through intense aerobic activity (which doesn’t include inverting the body – head lower than heart).
Inversions that yogis can hold for 3-5 minutes on a daily basis strengthen the immune system by stimulating the lymphatic system.
Inversions or even legs up against the wall are often advised in cases of varicose veins and leg edema.
It should be noted that inversions such as shoulder stand, headstand, handstand, forearm stand are not for everyone especially those with cervical spine issues. Legs up against the wall or even bridge pose and restorative bridge pose (block underneath the sacrum), where your head is still below your heart can provide similar benefits.
Don’t rush into inversions without proper teaching and DON’T do anything in yoga that causes discomfort just because the person next to you is in a pose. Yoga is nonjudgmental. The yoga tenets of ahimsa, nonviolence or compassion and shaucha, sacrifice the ego cannot be forgotten.
Yoga is about YOUR health, YOUR goals, and it’s YOUR practice. In a class you are part of a community of supportive yogis, but all of the students will not be practicing the same. What is right for one person or feels good may not for another person… so what? In your practice you should be meditatively moving through the asanas with gaze that is enpowering and energizing or relaxing not to another yogi. Use the yogis around you as support in that you have common goals, care about your body, health, and mental well being.