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Yoga Practices for your Immune System

It’s that dark time of year when it seems that everyone you know is either sick or recovering from the flu, virus, or head cold. Most people get hit with it once or twice a year, but if you’re frequently ill, it could be a sign of an exhausted or compromised immune system.

The yogis believe that these common winter illnesses are most related to the Manipura chakra, located at the navel center. Manipura is linked to the adrenal glands, and often get overworked and depleted during times of extreme stress. You know, like the holidays. When the adrenals are overworked, the immune system can weaken and burn out.

To boost the immune system, I teach practices that include asanas that engage Mani­pura, coupled with agni sara pranayama and two-to-one breathing. Outside of your own yoga practice, remember a few simple health rules to follow all year round: 1. Drink 8 to 10 glasses of water a day and eat a diet rich in fiber to help the flow of food and toxins through the intestines; 2. Include vitamin C and zinc in your daily supple­ments; and 3. Get at least 7 hours of sleep to rejuvenate the mind and the body.

Immune System Booster Practice. This routine strengthens the Manipura chakra and improves the immune system.

Sun salutation. Perform the sun salutation 2 to 4 times to warm the body.

Agni sara. Practice 3 rounds of agni sara, pausing between each round for 1 complete breath.

Fire series. Include 1 to 6 variations of core navel center work such as boat, side plank, or yogi bicycles.

Bow. Balance the agni fire with bow, holding the pose for 5 breaths. Follow with the child’s pose.

Seated forward bend. Eliminate accumulated toxins and improve circulation in the digestive tract by holding the pose at your deepest extension for 5 breaths, returning to center, and repeating 5 more times.

Seated twist. Seated twists trigger the squeezing and rinsing process of the large muscles along the spine, and stimulate the organs of elimination and digestion which help energize metabolism.

Shoulderstand. The queen of asana soothes the nerves, helps relieve hyperten­sion and insomnia, and stimulates the thyroid gland. Sustain the pose for at least 5 breaths.

Two-to-one breathing. Exhale twice as long as you inhale. To do it, inhale for a count of three, then exhale for a count of six. If the count is too short or too long, change it to something that feels more natural for you, such as 2:4, or 3:6. Start with a 2-minute practice.

Shavasana. Completely relax for 5 to 10 minutes in the pose of the corpse to release any dis-ease, discomfort, and emotional garbage that no longer serves you.

Keeping the Immune System Healthy

Get Outside. During cold weather, most of us spend 90 percent of the time indoors, inhaling fil­tered air and other people’s germs. To stimulate your brain and get your blood flowing, go outside at least once a day, even on cold days, taking time for a brisk walk or stretch.

Absorb the sun. The sun gives us our primary source of vitamin D. A lack of D can exacerbate autoimmune disorders and inhibit the healthy functioning of the thyroid gland. Try to soak up at least 10 to 20 minutes of sun exposure 3 to 4 times a week to support brain chemistry and the endocrine system.

Sleep. Getting a full night’s sleep is the most underrated health habit and healing tool we have at our disposal. The body needs time to heal, cleanse, and rejuvenate from the day’s activities. Sleep is linked to balanced hormone levels (including the stress hor­mone cortisol), weight management, and clear thinking.

Short of completely isolating yourself when everyone around you is coughing can be a challenge. Remember that holistic wellness requires a healthy lifestyle that includes diet, breath, movement, sleep, and keeping stress in check. Practice being present, riding rather than fighting the rhythm of your life. When you’re content, you’re far less likely to become run down and sick. Happy holidays!

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