Posted by: Trudy Prevost | October 18, 2015

Yoga Enhances the Immune System at a Cellular Level

The immune system is a complex array of organs, cells and molecules distributed throughout your body, responsible for protecting your body from harmful invaders such as germs, viruses, parasites and other foreign substances.” ~ Mayo Clinic

“The body’s ability to protect itself from viruses, bacteria and other disease-causing entities is known as immunity, from the Latin word immunis, meaning exempt.” ~ a medical text called Human Physiology: An Integrated Approach.

“Although at first sight, the immune system may appear to be autonomous, it is connected by innumerable structural and functional bridges with the nervous system and the endocrine system, so as to constitute a multisystem.” ~ Branislav D. Zankovic, Neuroimmunomodulation: the State of the Art.

The immune system serves 3 major functions:

  • It protects the body from Pathogens: microbes: bacteria, viruses, fungi, one-celled protozoans; Parasites: hookworms, tapeworms.
  • It removes dead or damaged cells.
  • It tries to recognize and remove abnormal cells

Sometimes the body’s immune system fails to perform its normal functions; the resulting medical conditions are generally categorized as:

  • incorrect responses – autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus.
  • overactive responses – allergies.
  • lack of response – immunodeficiency diseases can be genetic or acquired (HIV)

Modern day challenges for the immune system are:

  • mental stress
  • air, water, soil pollution
  • noise pollution
  • processed foods

Adapting a healthy lifestyle has been scientifically proven to enhance and strengthen the immune system. One of the health and wellness modalities that are being intensely studied is yoga.

Multiple studies show Yoga can enhance the immune system but most of them were focused on long term results.

In June 2013 scientists from the University of Oslo Norway showed that as quickly as two hours after a yoga class the immune system is enhanced at a cellular level.

Participants involved in a week retreat spent 2 days practicing yoga for 2 hours; 2 days walking in nature and listening to music for 2 hours. The researchers analysed blood samples immediately before and after

The yoga sessions included mindful breathing techniques; mindful movements and postures and mindful meditation techniques.

Researchers published “Here we have shown, to our knowledge for the first time, that there are rapid (within 2 hours of start of practice) and significant (3 fold) gene expression changes in PBMCs of practitioners during a comprehensive yoga program. These data suggest that previously reported effects of yoga practices have an integral physiological component at the molecular level which is initiated immediately during practice and may form the basis for the long term stable effects.”

It is theorized Yoga affects the Immune System by

  • Stimulating the lymphatic system.
  • Augmenting the respiratory system.
  • Enhancing the circulatory system.
  • Facilitating the digestive process.
  • Consumption of healthy foods.
  • Calming the nervous system.
  • Massaging and stimulating the internal organs.
  • Assisting oxygenated blood to reach the various organs to ensure optimal function.
  • Improving strength and stamina, both physical and mental.
  • Releasing tightness and tension in the body.
  • Increasing mindfulness – body awareness and supportive healthy behaviours.
  • Developing coping mechanisms and strategies for approaching challenging situations.
  • Cultivating compassionate relationships with oneself and others.
  • Releasing stress and eliciting the relaxation response.
  • Fostering a positive state of mind.

I personally believe yoga works so well because of the many techniques involved in one session at the same time. As we approach the “Cold and Flu Season” in Dominica – practice yoga for a strong immune system.

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