Boost Your Immunity for Spring
by Jacqueline Jackson
For more information on Iyengar style chair yoga check online at: http://www.achairforyoga.com
For more information on Metta Meditation check online here at: http://info.med.yale.edu/psych/3s/metta.html
For more information on the holistic medicine approach check out “Boosting Your Immunity for Dummies” by Dr. Wendy Warner and Dr. Kellyann Petrucci
For more info on yoga sequencing for immunity log on at: http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/2695
For more more tips on boosting your immunity check out www.evolvewellnesscentre.com
Supercharge Your System in Every Season
Aaaachoo! Cold starting to set in? That symptomatic sound too often accompanies the cold and flu season. With the freezing temperatures and shorter days that bluster in at the approach of the winter season’s icy onslaught-- denizens of the Northeast are driven into the stagnant, indoor air where germs are more likely to fester. Yet there is much strategy to be employed avoiding such a scenario and to boost one’s immune system in addition to drinking plenty of fluids and utilizing the natural cleansing affects of astringents like garlic and ginger.
That’s right, keep the body active through exercise-- anything that promotes physical movement and gets the circulation moving. And bouncing in particular stimulates lymph--a clear, watery fluid that moves through the body picking up bacteria and viruses and filtering them out via the lymph nodes.
This along with general yoga practices-- especially inversions-- stimulate lymph flow which has no circulatory pump of its own. You don’t have to stand on your head. Anytime your head is below your heart lymph moves into the respiratory organs, where germs often enter the body. When you return to an upright position, gravity drains the lymph, sending it through your lymph nodes for cleansing. BKS Iyengar recommends resting your head on a support to allow your neck, throat, and tongue to relax fully, thereby encouraging the lymph to flow freely through the nose and throat. Hold each pose for two to five minutes, breathing deeply from your diaphragm for the entire time.
Don't wait until the first sign of sniffles to attempt this practice—by that point inversions could agitate both body and mind. Instead, use this sequence to build up your immunity throughout the winter and keep common colds at bay. In Iyengar’s book Yoga-- the Path to Holistic Health in which he states Yoga strengthens the two types of immunity-- natural and acquired-- by strengthening both and that regular practice can help counter the disorders that affect them. Supported shoulder stand, reclined bound angle pose, reclined hero, down dog with head on a block, headstand, supported upward facing, two-foot staff pose (supported viparita dandasana,) plow, legs- up- the- wall and corpse with ujjayi and viloma 2 pranayama.
Taking It Easy
It’s not just during vacation that one can slow down--every bit counts! Find ways to take a breather throughout the day, everyday-- even taking steps as simple as deep breathing breaks at set intervals at a computer or in the car (anywhere you are,) mindful eating, time to be in nature appreciated a few moments of deep belly breathing at regular intervals through out the day. For example, if your at work sitting at your desk practicing some chair yoga. “All the things you do to boost your immune system make you healthier,” says Dr. Wendy Warner, co-author with Dr. Kellyann Petrucci of Boosting Your Immunity For Dummies. “Stress management is so important for everything especially immune function. So many people run around like crazy all stressed-- taking time just a few minutes everyday to calm themselves through breath work, meditation or yoga-- just 10 minutes a day makes a huge difference. People say they don’t have enough time but why wait until they are sick to slow down?” Since a dictionary definition of immunity is the body’s ability to be unaffected by a given influence and unresponsive to disease state than it’s logical to submit that in raising it up we focus on keeping it in a state of ease. Simply put, we can focus on creating more ease. Stress management is paramount to staying healthy in any environment. If you need to de-stress, try meditating before medicating.
Sleep It Off
To that end, if the cold has already crept in, bouncing back once the immune system system is already compromised entails rest. There is a ton of research out there that shows us in simple terms-- sleep deprivation suppresses immune system function. “Sleep is something many people don’t get enough of,” says Warner. “Too many people I see in my practice keep trying to chug through [their sickness]-- slowing down is common sense none of us ever do anymore. Many people don’t actually eat appropriate food when they are sick--- they usually grab comfort food which is processed. But as corny as it is-- chicken soup is the best with veggies, protein and fluid. Then lots and lots of vitamin C in any form-- be it supplements or oranges-- whatever.”
Eat Your Way to Health
We all know to not only eat our fruits and veggies but have them in a variety-- eat a rainbow. We also know that not all foods pact the same punch. Technically “superfood” is a marketing term that describes food with supposed health benefits like blueberries. But really all that makes them super is that they are low in calories, have substantial omega- 3 fatty acids/ monostaurated fatty acids, high in fiber and contain phytotchemicals (chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants (phyto means "plant" in Greek). It is there antioxidant quality that makes them stand out. Perhaps unfortunutely the term is misleading as it implies that other foods aren’t worthy but they do provide more bang for your buck.
Many recent superfood lists contain common food choices whose nutritional value has been long recognized. Examples of these would be berries, nuts and seeds in general, dark green vegetables (such as kale, collard greens, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts and broccoli), citrus fruits, fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines, vegetables with bright, dark or intense colors (such as beets and their greens, sweet potatoes, and certain wild mushrooms), many legumes (peanuts, lentils, beans, raw cocoa), and whole grains as a group.
Although many people know about echinacea... “the trick is to take it very quickly when you feel yourself getting sick-- if you wait a couple days it’s too late,” says Warner. “I take a lot when I’m sick-- not only the supplement but even better is the liquid extract a couple times a day and then I drink the tea all day long using the root.” Warner went on to suggest a supplement she felt was more effective once your already sick. It is a a called andrographis which is a medicinal, Indian herb that whose name translates to “bitter.” It has a number of purported medicinal uses, although research has found evidence of its effectiveness is limited to treatment of upper respiratory infection, ulcerative colitis and rheumatic symptoms, according to wikipedia.
“The thing people need to do the most-- the single most important thing for their immunity-- to slow down and de- stress,” advised Warner. “Not only do people need to get to calm but to experience positive emotions. Your adrenals (the anti-stress glands of the body also known as the the reserve tank the body falls back on when faced with stressful situations,) want to know we are joyful [it’s helps their functionality.] Calm and peaceful is neutral but is not as good as laughter, happiness and joy. It could be found in something as simple as being grateful for the beauty of taking a walk.”
Since a dictionary definition of immunity is the body’s ability to be unaffected by a given influence and unresponsive to a disease state, than it’s logical to submit that in raising it up we can focus on keeping it in a state of ease-- to make something unpleasant, painful or intense less serious or severe. Or as it’s said in yoga sutra (YS II.33), Patanjali advises the yoga practitioner that, 'When disturbed by disturbing thoughts, think of the opposite.'
But if we want to truly change a situation, Tibetan Heart Yoga implores that it does not serve us to be disturbed by disturbing thoughts. Instead, we must choose to see the proverbial glass as half-full. And we must start working to create overflowing glasses for everyone by planting very good karmic seeds through serving others. One immediate way about this is to practice lovingkindness for another person who suffers as it’s taught in Metta meditation-- “May they be happy, healthy, safe and at peace.” In this is the way to plant good seeds that negate suffering.
“Vitamin D and Superimmunity Genes”
Vitamin D is a steroid vitamin, a group of fat-soluble prohormones, which encourages the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorous. According to medical news today online, people who are exposed to normal quantities of sunlight do not need vitamin D supplements because sunlight promotes sufficient vitamin D synthesis in the skin.
High blood levels of vitamin D were found to protect even healthy people at a genetic level. Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine found that higher vitamin D levels in healthy individuals have a significant impact on the genes that are involved in several biologic pathways associated with illnesses, including cancer, autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease and infectious diseases.
An important important factor [in supporting immunity] is maintaining a healthy vitamin D level,” says Warner. “It helps the body recognize abnormal cells. Northerners do not get enough sunlight to meet the daily requirement of 1,000 IU’s per day. Although the vitamin can be found naturally in foods like salmon, egg yolk, mushrooms and parsley these are not enough so it’s important to supplement. Get your blood drawn to figure out the levels-- too much vitamin D can damage your liver.
So say good bye to the sniffles typical to cold season and hello to a stronger immune system by creating your own immune boosting program. Use the yogic principal of experiential refinement according to your own constitution and needs as your guide. To your health (in body, mind and spirit.)
Jacqueline Jackson, BA, E-RYT, Yoga therapist is a freelance writer in the greater NYC area.