Yoga is an ancient bodywork that has existed for thousands of years to help still racing thoughts long enough to experience a meditative state called ‘samadhi’. Although not created as a means for improving the fitness, or even wellbeing there are many positive side-effects of a regular yoga practice.
Practising yoga regularly helps regulate one’s autonomic nervous system which is responsible for ‘automatic’ bodily functions such as breathing, heart rate and body temperature etc. When agitated these processes fall out of balance and can impact our health adversely.
All Yoga styles give guidance on breathing. Yogic breathing will help to establish a gentle and regular breathing pattern. When the exhalation is longer than the inhale it helps to bring create a carbon dioxide balance which bring feelings of relaxed calmness. This brings the central nervous system into a para-sympathetic state which sends a message throughout the body of rest and replenishment. In this state major bodily organs can metabolise and regenerate to boost immunity.
When we’re stressed the para sympathetic nervous response prepares the body for ‘flight or fight’. Being in this state for a prolonged period of time is very stressful and can lead to a drop in our immunity. As the body directs resources away from rest and recuperation in preparation for conflict.
The following 5 poses aid lymphatic flow, improve sleep, reduce Stress and improve posture all of which combine to boost immunity.
Adho Mukha Shvanasana (Downward facing dog)
Improves lymphatic flow and strengthens back and shoulder muscles. To refine this pose, let the weight push through the ‘heels’ of the hands as if you were trying to push your mat away from you. The weight in the feet is through the instep. Over time aim to flatten the thoracic spine.
Tri-Konasana (Triangle pose)
This pose will lengthen hamstrings which support better posture and improve sleep. Remember to have a small bend at the knee in the leg that is in front.
Ardha Matseyandrasana (Half lord of the fish pose)
Twists are great for improving lymphatic flow. And Ardha Matseyandrasana helps lengthen glute medius, which improves posture and can help release low back tension. To refine this pose make sure big toes on both feet are in contact with your mat. When twisting be sure to lengthen the spine upward and then rotating.
Jathara Parivartanasana (Revolved Abdomen Pose)
Another twist pose. That helps improve digestion and lymphatic flow. If you cannot reach your feet with the spare hand use a strap. Be sure to make sure that both shoulders are in contact with your mat.
Viparita Karani (Legs up the wall pose)
Super restful pose, remember to breath low into the stomach, follow the breath up into the ribs and then up to the collar bones.
Sunil Kalsi teaches Yoga in Hertford, Hertfordshire. Sunil runs yoga workshops and retreats since completing his Yoga teacher Training with one of the foremost Yoga teachers in the UK at The Traditional Yoga Association.