Many of us are familiar with the physical and mental benefits that yoga provides. We know that it involves a series of physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation practices designed to improve flexibility, strength, and relaxation. In recent years, some styles of yoga have gained widespread popularity as a form of exercise and stress management, with many people turning to it as a way to improve their physical and mental well-being.
One lesser known area where yoga may be particularly beneficial is in its impact on the immune system. The immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to defend the body against infection and disease. It is constantly at work, fighting off harmful bacteria and viruses, and helping to keep us healthy.
Below, we will explore some of the ways in which yoga may boost the immune system:
Stress Reduction: Stress can have a major impact on the immune system, potentially weakening it and making us more susceptible to illness. Yoga, with its emphasis on stress reduction through movement, breath and mindfulness, has been shown to be an effective way to reduce stress and improve overall well-being.
Improved Sleep Quality: Adequate sleep is crucial for maintaining a healthy immune system. Yoga practices such as Yin, Yoga Nidra & Restorative Yoga have been shown to improve sleep quality and duration, helping to support a healthy immune system.
Increases blood flow and lymph circulation: Yoga involves movements and postures that can improve both lymphatic flow and blood circulation. The lymphatic system plays a crucial role in immune function by removing waste and toxins from the body. This increase in circulation and flow helps to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the body's cells, including immune cells, helping to support their function.
Enhanced respiratory function: Strong lungs are essential for a robust immune system, particularly in the face of respiratory illnesses. Pranayama techniques like Kapalabhati and Bhastrika can increase lung capacity and improve overall health.
One study, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that regular yoga practice was associated with increased levels of antibodies in the blood, which are important for fighting off infections and disease. In this study, a group of healthy individuals were asked to engage in a daily yoga practice for three months. At the end of the study, the researchers found that the participants had significantly higher levels of antibodies compared to a control group who did not practice yoga.
Another study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that yoga may also have a positive effect on the immune system by reducing stress and anxiety. High levels of stress and anxiety have been linked to a variety of health problems, including a weakened immune system. The study found that individuals who participated in a yoga and meditation program had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as increased immune function compared to a control group.
There is also growing evidence to suggest that certain yoga poses and techniques may have specific immune-boosting benefits. For example, one study published in the Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology found that inverted poses, such as downward facing dog and candlestick pose, may help to stimulate the thymus gland, which is an important part of the immune system.
Finally, it is worth noting that while the research on yoga and the immune system is still in its early stages, many people report feeling healthier and more energetic after starting a yoga practice. To help you get started (or keep going) we’ve added a link below to our online class: Slow Flow | Immune Support. Enjoy!
Link to online class:
Links to studies:
"The Effects of Yoga on the Immune System: A Systematic Review" (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5798744/
"The Effects of a Yoga and Meditation Retreat on the Immune System" (Journal of the American Medical Association): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4994040/
"Inverted Yoga Poses and the Thymus Gland" (Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3720083/