Discover the immune-boosting benefits of yoga – the perfect exercise routine for stressed moms.
You may think that yoga is just about breathing, stretching and relaxation but there’s a lot more to it. Research shows that practising yoga and focusing on certain yoga postures, in particular, can protect you against disease.
What exactly is yoga?
The term “yoga” literally translates to “unity of the body, mind and soul”. Yoga is a comprehensive form of exercise that promotes mental focus and generates balanced energy, which is vital to the function of the immune system.
How does yoga boost immunity?
Immunity-boosting benefits include:
• Stimulating the physiological systems directly linked to the immune system, i.e. the digestive, circulatory, endocrine and nervous systems.
• Detoxifying and oxygenating the body and increasing the circulation of lymphatic fluid. This fluid moves through the body, collecting bacteria and viruses, and filtering them through the lymph nodes.
• Stimulating and balancing the body’s biochemistry through the thymus gland, and thyroid glands.
• Stimulating various acupressure points throughout the body, which helps to evict viruses, release stress, stimulate digestion and activate the metabolic system.
• Reducing stress and fatigue, two factors that compromise the immune system.
• Assisting digestion, which improves the utilisation of nutrients and the release of toxins.
Ulrike Lamprecht, yoga teacher and proud mother of four, can attest to the many benefits of yoga. “I manage to do more than the average non-yogi, as I’m more focused and calm after doing my routine,” Ulrike says. “Plus, I don’t get sick – even when everyone around me falls ill. Yoga really strengthens your immune system. “I honestly think it should be prescribed for moms!” says Annie de Beer, a mother of three who swears by the restorative power of what she calls her “me time”.
A simple yoga routine
Keen to give it a go? Although it’s best to work with a qualified instructor, this simple routine at home will get you started:
How to do it: Flatten your palms shoulder-width apart at the front of the mat. Straighten your arms, pressing into the palms. Lift your hips, straightening your legs towards the back of the mat and keeping the feet apart. Create a triangle shape from hands to hips (in the air), and from feet to hips. Take long, deep breaths through your nose and soften the neck, jaw and tongue.
Immune-boosting benefits: This very simple, but effective foundation posture promotes circulation, clears the sinuses, and helps to move white blood cells through the body. It also decompresses the spine and lengthens the torso as an opening routine for the rest of your yoga session.
Cat and Cow Breathing
How to do it: From Downward Dog, come onto your hands and knees (hands below shoulders, knees below hips). Breathe deeply through your nose.
The Cow Breath:
On the inhale breath, lift and expand the front chest up and forward, elongate your throat, draw your shoulders back, and curve your middle spine downwards as you tuck in your tailbone.
The Cat Breath:
On a strong exhale, tuck your chin to your throat, pull in your belly, and arch your spine upwards (like an angry cat), rolling your shoulders forward and down to compress the front chest.
Inhale to Cow Pose and exhale to Cat Pose with a fluid up-and-down, wave-like motion of the spine and torso. Repeat the cycle 5 times; then return to Downward Dog.
Immune-boosting benefits: This is a great yoga sequence that helps to improve circulation and clear congestion in the bronchial region and sinuses. It also simulates digestion and, through muscular contraction and extension, pumps blood and lymphatic fluid through the thoracic muscle groups. At the same time, it increases cardio-vascular fitness and helps stimulate the kidneys, while relieving stress from the neck and shoulder area, and extending the lumbar spine region.
How to do it: Return to Downward Dog and activate a deeper stretch through the back and down the legs. Pull the muscles in around the navel, and breathe deeply and slowly.
Move to Savasana (lying on your back) by slowly walking the feet towards the hands, bending your knees and first sitting. Then, uncurl the spine slowly to lie down comfortably, arms to the side of the body, palms facing upwards.
Slow your heart rate.
How to do it: Bend your knees together towards your chest, feet off the floor, and lift your chest up, so that you’re balanced on your sit bones with your torso at a diagonal.
Then, lift your legs out in front of you (knees bent to assist with balance). Expand your front of chest and lift your chin slightly, arms at shoulder height parallel to the floor. Soften your shoulders, neck and back of the head, and work on contraction of core muscles for balance and stamina.
Breathe deeply and slowly for 3 to 5 cycles.
Immune-boosting benefits: This pose stimulates the thymus gland by opening up the chest, thus activating the release and flow of white blood cells. It also develops core strength, aids digestion as well as the elimination of toxins.
How to do it: From Boat Pose, slowly lower the feet, keeping knees bent and feet hip-distance apart. Slowly uncurl the spine onto the floor and, when the head reaches the ground, relax completely as you exhale. On an inhale, press into your feet and raise the hips and lower back off the mat. Interlace fingers underneath you. Shift from side to side to get comfortable, and breathe deeply.
Immune-boosting benefits: This is a deep, but gentle backward bend. It opens and expands the chest area, releases tension in the back, hips and shoulders, and helps the emotions “unwind”. Maintain this for a few moments while you allow the breathing to settle and become softer.
How to do it: Close your yoga sequence by gently returning to Savasana for 1 to 2 minutes while you absorb the good feeling.