Yoga for immunity
Updated: Oct 7, 2022
Do you remember the old adverts for a well-known brand of flu powder before the pandemic? Images of big brave men in suits, along with a token woman, obviously feeling like a bag of shit with runny noses and hacking coughs. Did they stop and rest ? Noooooo thanks to the magic sachets of lemony sugar combined with E numbers they could power through many a business meeting and keep the economy running.
In a culture where being busy is a badge of honour we often treat our bodies like machines as we plough on. The body talks to us if we quieten down enough to listen but all too often we are too stressed and ignore its pleas for rest and recuperation until we inevitably become ill. When researching for my immunity workshop the message was loud and clear - don't get sick or you won't be able to keep on working yourself into an early grave. Interestingly, whilst on the surface it seems like there’s been a massive cultural shift post pandemic with a hint of a sniffle or a tickly cough making you persona non grata there’s still heaps of stress and fear in the air and a deep mistrust in the body’s innate capacity to heal itself. Fear and stress wreak havoc on our immune system as we release cortisol - the stress hormone. Cortisol is important for our health in the short term but when it lingers in our system it leads to Inflammation in the body, muscle weakness, severe fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, high blood pressure, headaches and weight gain. Yoga and mindfulness serve as an intervention for those times when we are highly stressed and with a regular practice you can learn how to get into the relaxed part of your nervous system (parasympathetic response) where we rest and digest and enhance our immune system and lymphatic health. Our lymph system can be likened to our body’s waste collection service but it gets switched off when we are in a stressful state and thus our immunity is compromised. It is never selfish or self-indulgent to take time out to care for yourself. Whatever medicines you may take to manage colds it’s like pouring water into a leaky bucket if you don’t manage your stress. As the Dalai Lama said more eloquently than I when asked what surprised him most about humanity : "Man! Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived”