How Yoga Improves Your Immune System
Yoga offers the perfect antidote if you're frequently sick or feel tired and run down. In fact, regular yoga sessions boost your immune system while strengthening your muscles and bones.
Common Causes of Immune System Issues
Your immune system serves as your body's gatekeeper. The system identifies intruders (germs) that could make you sick and quickly kills them. Unfortunately, germs can break through the gate if your immune system is too weak to launch an effective attack.
The immune system can become weak or suppressed due to:
- Steroids, Chemotherapy Drugs, or Other Medications that Suppress the Immune System
- Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
- Drugs Used to Prevent Rejection After Organ Transplants
- Autoimmune Diseases, Including Lupus, Type 1 Diabetes, and Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Immune Deficiencies Present at Birth
Boosting Your Immune System with Yoga
Practicing yoga offers a simple way to energize your immune system. Yoga keeps the immune system strong by:
- Decreasing Inflammation. Chronic inflammation can be a factor in diseases ranging from cancer and heart disease to diabetes. Inflammation also makes it harder for your immune system to do its job. Luckily, practicing yoga may help control pro-inflammatory biomarkers and reduce inflammation. A systematic review published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine notes that yoga could be helpful for people who already have a disease with an inflammatory element or are at risk for developing one of these diseases.
- Improving Lymphatic System Function. The lymphatic system removes extra fluid from your body and is essential for fat absorption and the production of lymphocytes. Lymphocytes, a kind of white blood cell, kills germs and foreign substances and also targets cells that have become cancerous. The legs up the wall pose and other poses you perform during a yoga session improve lymphatic fluid circulation and drainage.
- Keeping Your Blood Flowing. Poor blood circulation may also be a factor in a weak immune system. Your bloodstream constantly circulates oxygen and nutrients throughout your body. Sluggish circulation prevents your cells, organs, and tissues from receiving the nutrients and oxygen needed to function optimally. The shoulder stand, downward facing dog, and other poses improve blood flow by relaxing blood vessels, boosting blood flow. If you're feeling a little congested, lowering your head during downward facing dog can even help clear your sinuses.
- Reducing Stress. The effects of stress aren't limited to headaches, upset stomachs, and painfully tight muscles. In fact, stress just may be one of the most underrated factors in disease. Chronic stress raises your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and depression, according to the American Heart Association. Your immune system is also affected and may struggle to protect and repair your body when stressed. Yoga reduces production of the stress hormone cortisol, relieves muscle tension and pain, and floods your body with natural painkillers and mood enhancers.
- Changing Immune System Pathways. Yoga can also have a beneficial effect on pathways crucial for good immune system function. Researchers who studied the link between the immune system and meditation discovered that meditating can alter pathways and help activate the immune system. Their work appeared in PNAS. Meditation, an important part of your yoga practice, calms your mind, improves mindfulness, and reduces stress.
Can't wait to recharge your immune system with yoga? Contact us if you're ready to enroll in a yoga class.
American Heart Association: Lower Stress: How Does Stress Affect the body?, 10/20/2021
PubMed: Journal of Behavioral Medicine: Yoga and Immune System Functioning: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials, 8/2018
PNAS: Large-Scale Genomic Study Reveals Robust Activation of the Immune System Following Advanced Inner Engineering Meditation Retreat, 12/13/2021
Yoga Journal: Can Practicing Yoga Actually Improve Your Immunity?, 1/26/2023