The advent of Coronavirus pandemic shook up our world and changed many things from the way we work to the way we interact with people. It has also made us more conscious about our overall health which for many people had seen a rapid deterioration in the post pandemic world due to sedentary lifestyle and after recovering from Covid. Our immune system took a beating as well as our body fought the infection with great valiance. According to a study, Covid-19 reduced the number and functional competence of certain types of immune cells in the blood and this could affect responses to secondary infections. Apart from the physical causes, our immunity may also get affected if our mental health is not right. According to a report by American Psychological Association, long term stress can weaken the response of our immune system. This is because stress can reduce body’s lymphocytes or white blood cells that fight infection. The lesser white blood cells you have, the more you are at risk of catching diseases and infections.
Practicing Yoga regularly can play a great role in strengthening the immune system. There are several studies to support this. A study has found that regular yoga practice can increase the number and activity of immune cells, such as natural killer cells and cytotoxic T-cells, which play a key role in fighting off infections and cancer. Additionally, yoga may help reduce stress which can suppress the immune system. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings and to determine the specific mechanisms by which yoga may improve immunity.
According to another study conducted by the University of Florida and published in ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Journal’, eight days of intense meditation can cause robust activation of the immune system. While the positive effects of meditation are well documented, far less is known about its molecular and genetic effects, said Vijayendran Chandran, PhD, an assistant professor of paediatrics and neuroscience in the UF College of Medicine.
Here are some yogasanas that can help boost immunity:
Surya Namaskar (Sun salutation)
Also known as Sun Salutation, Surya Namaskar is a combination of seven different yogic postures and is done in a 12-step pattern. The asana is considered great for the body and brilliant for mind. The best time to practice Surya Namaskar is dawn and if done in the correct sequence, it can help improve heart health and boost immunity, preventing from infections and diseases.
The combination of movements and breathing techniques can help improve circulation and oxygenate the body. Other benefits of Surya Namaskar include weight loss, better muscle and joint health, sound sleep, improved menstrual health, better digestion. It is also a very good asana for people with diabetes as it helps improve blood sugar control. Additionally, Surya Namaskar is also effective in cutting belly fat and toning muscles. However, people who have weak muscles or weak bones should avoid doing this asana or do it only on advice of a health expert. People who have back pain should not do this asana. Bollywood actors like Kareena Kapoor, Jacqueline Fernandez and Shilpa Shetty include Surya Namaskar in their fitness routine and reap great benefits from it.
Sarvangasana (Shoulder stand)
Sarvangasana or Shoulder Stand is a yoga pose which is basically inversion of body and plays a great role in improving blood circulation. The pose inverts the body and allows blood to flow to the thyroid gland and the thymus gland, which are important for immune health. Sarvangasana also helps in aiding digestion, strengthening the muscles of neck, shoulder and spine.
It also plays a role in calming the mind and relieving stress. Considered a full body workout, Sarvangasana is also beneficial for lung health, respiratory issues and reproductive health. The shoulder stand also improves the functioning of the endocrine system and balances hormones. The asana is also helpful in getting sound sleep at night as it helps release of happy hormones like dopamine which helps relieve stress and anxiety and improves moods.
Matsyasana (Fish pose)
Matsyasana also known as Fish pose is a reclining back-bending asana. This is one of the asanas that helps improve immune function. The asana opens up chest and throat and helps in stimulating immune system by promoting blood flow to the thymus gland. It also helps in releasing stress which is again beneficial for your immune system. Additionally, the asana is great for flexibility and muscle strength and also contributes in improving posture.
It helps to keep spine strong and flexible. This is also one of the poses that could help in cutting abdominal fat. Matsyasana can also help in relieving constipation. There are certain asanas that can help improve the function of your thyroid gland and Matsyasana is one of them as it improves blood flow to the thyroid gland. People with high or low blood pressure or migraine should however avoid doing this asana. Also, people who have had some kind of back or neck injury in the recent past must not do this pose. Heart patients, pregnant women and spondylitis patients should steer clear of performing this asana.
Bhujangasana (Cobra pose)
Bhujangasana or Cobra pose helps strengthen the immune system by stretching the muscles in the chest and throat, which can help stimulate the thymus gland. The cobra pose opens up your lungs, and relieves stress and tension from the back. It also helps tone down abdominal muscles and strengthen spine. The pose can especially benefit those who complain of a stiff back by improving body flexibility. Also, bhujangasana is great for improving blood circulation and helps one stay active and energized.
It also helps in improving oxygenation and helps the cells to get enough oxygen and nutrients. The asana is considered great for mental health and can help one fight depression and anxiety. According to studies, practicing bhujangasana can also help with headaches and fatigue. If you have a tendency to suffer from low moods, bhujangasana can work wonders for your moods too and help you feel good. Bhujangasana is not advised for those who are pregnant, have wrist or rib injury, asthma or have had abdominal surgery.
Paschimottanasana (Seated forward bend)
Paschimottanasana or seated forward bend can help stimulate the immune system by stretching the spine and opening the chest. It also stretches the hamstrings and lower back muscles and improve flexibility of the body. Great for mental health, paschimottanasana can help calm the mind and reduce stress and anxiety. If you have a weak digestion, doing this bend can help improve your gut health and keep issues like acidity, bloating and indigestion at bay. The asana helps in stimulating liver and kidney.
It even improves menstrual health and reduces discomfort during your monthly cycle. The bend is great for reducing fatigue and in staying stress-free. The asana provides good stretch to nearly all the muscles of the body and improves flexibility. If you are suffering from diabetes, you can include this stretch in your daily routine to achieve better glucose control. People with back pain, sciatica, high blood pressure, heart issues should not attempt this asana. Pregnant women in their second or third trimester must avoid this asana. Those suffering from slipped disc should not do this pose.