Yoga poses to boost the immune system
For anything to function correctly, balance and stability are key. The immune system is no exception.
Yoga offers a holistic approach to balancing the whole body and these exercises focus on balancing the main organs, reducing tension and stress and boosting energy. The poses below directly support and strengthen the immune system and can help to keep illness at bay.
1: TADASANA (Mountain Pose)
Increases awareness, relieves tension and improves blood circulation. Energises and harmonises the body and mind.
Stand with big toes touching, heels slightly apart. Firm your thigh muscles and lift your knee caps, but keep your stomach muscles relaxed. Breathe in and stretch your shoulders, arms and chest upwards. You can raise your arms beside your body or in front of your chest. Lift your heels and place your weight on your toes. Feel the stretch all through your body and hold the pose for a few seconds, or as long as is comfortable. Lastly, exhale and release gently.
2: VRIKASHANA (Tree Pose)
Good for the spine and muscle coordination. Increases stamina and focus and relaxes the nervous system.
Stand very straight with your feet together and arms beside you. Bend your right knee slightly and then lift your right leg to place your right foot as high as you can on your inner left leg. The sole of your right foot should be completely flat against your left thigh. Once in position, breathe and balance. Then raise your arms above your head and place your palms together. If you find it hard to balance, fix your gaze on something in the middle distance. After a few slow breaths, gently lower your arms and release your leg. Repeat with the other leg.
3: PADANGUSTHASANA (Big Toe Pose)
Relieves stress and anxiety and improves digestion. Helps achieve deeper, more restful sleep.
Stand with feet parallel and at least 6 inches apart. Legs should be straight and thigh muscles contracted. Bend forwards, moving your head and torso together, aiming to touch your knees with your forehead. Grip your big toes with your hands. Now inhale and lift your torso, remembering to straighten your elbows. Repeat this exercise several times, remembering to breathe constantly and keep your torso straight as you bend.
4: TRIKONASANA (Triangle Pose)
Improves circulation and lowers blood pressure. Calms the mind and reduces stress.
Stand with legs wide apart, with the right foot at 90 degree angle outwards and the left foot at 15 degree angle inwards. Your right heel should be aligned with the arch of your left foot. Balance your weight equally between the feet. Take a deep breath, and as you exhale, bend your body to the right from below your hips, ensuring your waist is straight. Lift your left hand up and let your right hand touch the ground. Both your arms should form a straight line. Rest your right hand on your shin, ankle, or outside the right foot on the floor. Make sure you do not contort the sides of your waist. Your left arm should be stretched out towards the ceiling and in line with the top of your shoulder. Let your head sit in a neutral position or turn it to the left. Your body should be bent sideways, not backwards or forwards. Your chest and pelvis should be wide open. Stretch to the fullest and take deep, long breaths. Inhale and come up. Drop your arms to your side and straighten your feet. Repeat the same using the left leg.
5: UTKATASANA (Chair Pose)
Increases strength, energy and balance. Stimulates the heart and massages the abdominal organs.
Stand with feet apart. Stretch your arms forward, ensuring that your palms are facing downwards. Ensure that arms and elbows are straight. Gently bend your knees and push down your pelvis, as if you were to sit in an imaginary chair. Make yourself comfortable and be aware of your body and breathing as you hold the pose. Keep your spine lengthened. Calm your mind and relax. Smile. Now hold the pose for up to a minute.
6: BHUJANGASANA (Cobra Pose)
Stimulates and improves digestion and circulation. Opens up the lungs, reducing stress and tension. This pose also stimulates the core and boosts energy levels.
Lie flat on your stomach. Place your hands to your sides and ensure that your toes touch each other. Move your hands to the front, making sure they are at shoulder level, and place your palms on the floor. Place your body’s weight on to your palms, inhale and raise your head and trunk (note that your elbows should be bent). Arch your neck backwards, making sure your shoulder blades are firm and that your shoulders are away from your ears. Press your hips, thighs, and feet to the floor. Hold the asana (pose) for about 15 to 30 seconds while breathing normally. Feel your stomach pressed against the floor. With practice, you should be able to hold the asana for up to two minutes. To release the pose, slowly bring your hands back to the sides. Rest your head on the ground by bringing your forehead into contact with the floor. Place your hands under your head. Lastly, slowly rest your head on to one side and breathe.
7: MATSAYASANA (Fish Pose)
Strengthens core and improves digestion. Helps to prevent constipation. Beneficial in relaxing the shoulders and neck. Regulates breathing and stimulates the parathyroid gland.
Lie flat on your back, making sure your legs are together and your hands are comfortably beside your body. Place your palms (face down) underneath your hips. Now, bring your elbows closer to each other by placing them close to your waist. Cross your legs so that your feet cross each other at your middle, and your thighs and knees are placed flat on the floor. Breathe in and lift your chest up, tilting your head back. Make sure the weight of your body is on your elbows and not on your head. Hold the position only for as long as you are comfortable. Breathe normally. When you are ready, exhale and release the position, lifting your head first, then dropping your chest to the ground. Uncross your legs and relax.
All exercises are best done on an empty stomach, two or three hours before or after eating a meal.