It is crucial for us to ensure our immune system is in good shape, amid the world being in a virtual "lockdown" due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recent article shared by the Harvard Medical School, titled "Coping with Coronavirus anxiety" recommends yoga, meditation and breathing exercises to address anxiety issues related to the virus outbreak.
According to Dr John Sharp, who sits on the board of the Harvard Medical School, and the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, regular meditation is "very calming", and controlled breathing can keep the mind calm and more centred.
Below are six aspects of yoga that can help calm the mind and improve the immune system:
AsanaMost asanas (poses) help revive the immune system. It helps lower the stress hormones that compromise the immune system, while also strengthening the lungs and the respiratory tract. Asanas stimulate the lymphatic system to reject toxins from the body and brings in oxygen to blood and to the organs. Poses such as the parvatasana (mountain), ustrasana (camel), sethu bandasana (bridge pose), chakrasana (wheel pose), and halasana (plow pose) expand the lung capacity and increase oxygen intake.
PranayamaThe lungs are the biggest lymph pumps in the body, which facilitates the clearing of clutter and toxins from one's body. Pranayama can be a good prarice to mitigate stress and boost immunity. Deep breathing, or forced inhalation and exhalation, or most breathing practises, open up the lungs and side rids, keeping things moving. Try the Nadi Sodhana (alternate nostril breathing), Bhastrika (bellow breathing) and the Wim Hof breathing method.
ShatkarmaShatkarma is a yogic cleansing method. There are 6 types of shatkarma practises, including the jala neti (nasal cleaning), kaplabathi ( fire breathing) and Dhauti (cleaning of the digestive tract). Those mentioned techniques strengthen the immune system, and keep the nasal and digestive systems clean. However, these practises need proper guidance from a yoga instructor.
BandhaYogic lock or bandha is another important aspect in yoga, mostly used while practicing asana or breathing. There are 3 types of bandha, namely Jalandhra Bandha, Uddiyana Bandha and Mooda Bandha. For example, the Uddiyana bandha, which involves lifting the diaphragm and engaging the abdomen, activates the manipura chakra (solar plexus) and strengthens the immune system by balancing the mind, soothing irritability and anger, and dispels a depressive mood.
Bandhas, however, should be done with some precaution. Read and study the explanation given for the relevant Bandhas as they are incorporated into the breathing techniques.
DyanaMindfulness meditation (dyana) cultivates the state of mindful awareness in daily life. Many research on mindfulness meditation shows that the practice improves human health and wellbeing. Researches have shown that mindfulness meditation actives the immune function, reduced blood pressure and enhances the cognitive function.
MudraEqually important and beneficial in yoga practice is mudra (hand gesture). Diseases in our body are caused by the imbalances in our body, which in turn are caused by the lack, or excess of any of the five elements - air, fire, space, earth, and water. Each finger in our hands represents the five elements and performing mudras with them help repair the imbalance of the elements in our body. This then helps strengthen our immunity, improves the organs' function and equips the body to fight off illness.
Nizha Periaswamy is a yoga instructor and freelance writer.
Photo source: The Guardian