If you want to skip having a cold or flu this year, stick to your mat. Yoga has been proven to have beneficial effects when it comes to bolstering your immune system, along with a long list of other benefits. Here’s our list of yoga do’s and don’ts if you want to boost your immune system, or help you feel better if you’re already under the weather.
- get sweaty
- get loud
- overdo it
- spread your germs
- forget to shower
- forget to eat
Regular yoga practice helps improve organ functions, balances hormones, and helps to naturally detoxify the body. The constant stretching and controlled movement found in yoga is excellent for the vitality of your lymph nodes, one of the organs responsible for fighting infection and creating antibodies within the human body.
Cycling through yoga poses (especially when you do it quickly) is a proven way to get your heart going, dilating blood vessels and shooting fresh oxygenated blood throughout your body. Oxygenated blood equals happy organs, especially your brain.
Meditation increases activity in your brain and boosts immune functions. It’s science. Breath practice also has beneficial effects on your organs, starting with your heart—lowering blood pressure and heart rate while increasing blood flow to other vital organs. All things in yoga are measured through breath count, but its not just limited to the mat. While seated comfortably, slowly inhale through your nose, deeply and completely filling your lungs with air. Then, exhale at the same rate out your mouth. Believe it or not, you’re already doing yoga.
Chanting and humming, often practiced within yoga (think Om), has been shown to open your sinuses and promote drainage within the respiratory system, absolutely vital when you’re feeling under the weather. So the next time your yoga teacher asks you to join in on the Om, dont hold back. Get loud and be heard!
If you’re too sick to get out of bed, you’re probably too sick to do yoga. While yoga can boost your immune system and help you power through minor ailments, if you’re seriously sick you should skip the practice and catch up on rest. Your body needs downtime to build itself back up and recover.
If you are visibly sick (i.e. wildly runny nose, coughing fits, etc.), take precautions to protect your fellow yogis if you decide you still want to make it to class. Don’t leave the house without tissues and hand sanitizer, maybe even a surgical mask if you’ve got lots of violent discharge going on.
One of the most important things you can do for your body after a rigorous exercise session is to shower, especially if you’re feeling under the weather. Not only will a shower eliminate any potentially dangerous microbes you picked up from your mat (or from other people), the water and steam will do wonders for flushing your sinuses, bringing you instant relief. The long you wait to get clean, the higher the chance of you making yourself even sicker.
Yoga can be just as physically demanding as any other form of exercise, which means that your body will need to refuel itself after you finish your practice. Skipping a meal can be detrimental to more than just your waistline (you’ll actually weigh less if you eat after exercise), if your body doesn’t have enough energy to operate after physical activity, your immune system will be working at a much slower and less effective rate. Eat up, or you might just make yourself even sicker.
Yoga is great for the immune system. It increases oxygenated blood to the rest of the body, and can help reduce toxins that can lead to sickness. Practicing your normal yoga routine a few times a week is much like getting the exercise doctors recommend to stay healthy. If you are too sick to get out of bed, however, you should probably catch up on rest and save the yoga for another time.