Ayurveda & Yoga: Strengthening Your Immune System
Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Written by: Sara Plucker, Program Manager at Fitness at SPS Tower, AdvantageHealth
The winter season traditionally brings on a swarm of illnesses, and this year that is truer than any year in the recent past. One thing you can do to help yourself combat illness is to take care of your body and strengthen your immune system. Let’s take a look at how you can use the science of Ayurveda and yoga to help strengthen your immune system.
To start off, what is Ayurveda? Ayurveda is the study or science of life using holistic practices native to India. In simpler terms, it is natural medicine.
Unfortunately, in your hectic life, many of your daily habits deplete your immune system instead of build it up. These habits include poor sleep, over scheduling, constantly worrying, poor nutrition, lack of dietary variety, and a sedentary lifestyle. While this may not be your exact lifestyle, chances are you may fall into the habit of at least one. Good news is you can alter these habits! By changing your current habits and practicing quieting your mind, exercising, taking in appropriate herbs and/or foods, and drinking water you can boost your immune system.
By quieting your mind, you will allow yourself to make better choices that support your health. You can quiet your mind by practicing meditation, prayer, positive thinking, and engaging in mind-body exercise.
Moderate exercise stimulates lymphatic circulation throughout your body. Your lymphatic system carries white blood cells though your body and assists with detoxification. Even more, practicing mind body exercise, such as yoga, tai chi, or pilates, will allow your thoughts to slow and you will become more intentional with your movements. In return this will help increase your vitality and defenses.
Yoga can also help you strengthen your immune system through different poses. Like mentioned above, mind body exercise will allow you to slow your thoughts and let yourself become more intentional with your movements, but yoga can also help your immune system by flowing through specific poses or practices. The listed poses and practices encourage lymphatic circulation and encourage a healthy immune system.
Sun Salutations* (find in video at .44)
Eagle* (find in video at 4:04) - twisting of the arms increases circulation through the lymph nodes under your arms and round the front, back, and sides of the chest.
Arm circles* (find in video at 5:13)
Twists* (find in video at 6:32)
Heart opening backbends* (find in video at 9:22) - cobra, locust, camel, bridge, etc.
Ujayyi breath* (find in video at 14:20)
Breath of fire done in moderation* (find in video at 16:25)
As you may know, nutrition plays a large role in stimulating your immune system. Omega-3 and Omega-6 are beneficial in building your cellular defense system. Omega-3 and Omega-6 are prevalent in eggs, fish, nuts & seeds. While focusing on eating whole foods and whole grains increases your intake of minerals and antioxidants, such as magnesium, selenium, and zinc. These minerals play a vital role in increasing immunity, as do vitamins B, C, & E. Vitamin B can be found in whole grains, vitamin C is found in fruits and vegetables, while vitamin E is abundant in avocado or olive oil. Don’t forget to add protein to your diet, too. Amino acids, which make up protein, are necessary for building white blood cells and antibodies. Other foods that stimulate your immune system are garlic, onion, scallions, shallots, beets, and dark leafy greens. Herbal remedies can also support your immune system. Echinacea (purple coneflower), osha, goldenseal, turmeric, amalaka fruit, and astragalus are all herbs that can fend off illnesses. It is essential to stay well hydrated to remain well defended against illnesses. Drinking adequate water, .5-1oz per pound of body weight each day, flushes toxins, eliminates waste, and supports your health.
All things in moderation is key here. Don’t overdo it in one category to make up what you may lack in another category. Take on new habits that fit into your lifestyle and that are attainable to you.
Keep in mind adding in daily immunity habits takes time and should be discussed with your health provider, registered dietitian and/or personal trainer before changes are implemented.
YogaFit, & Tomasko, F. M. (n.d.). Strengthening Immunity. In YogaFit, Ayurveda and Yoga (pp. 35-40). YogaFit Training Systems Worldwide.