✅ Fact Checked
🧘 If you only got 30 seconds:
How effective is yoga for the immune system? While current research is limited, we do have evidence that a regular yoga practice can lower stress and chronic inflammation as well as induce relaxation and improve sleep quality. These benefits, in their turn, have a direct positive effect on our immune system functioning.
Wondering which yoga is best for improving immune response? Traditionally, yoga twists, inversions, and heart openers are considered to have immune-boosting properties. Try including Fish Pose, Half Lord of the Fishes, and Shoulderstand into your regular practice to help your immune system fight off disease and function at its best.
1/4 Does yoga boost immunity?
Yoga, the practice of physical poses asanas and breathing exercises Pranayama, has shown a promising opposite effect on immune system functioning.
A recent review of studies on yoga and immune system examined 15 randomized control trials to see if yoga can improve immunity and reduce inflammation. The general results have shown that people who started and sticked to yoga displayed a lower level of pro-inflammatory markers and an improved mucosal immune response.
How often and how long should you practice to increase immunity with yoga? We don’t really know. The abovementioned trials included yoga programs that lasted from around 8 weeks to 12 weeks and the frequency of yoga practices ranged from once a day to as rarely as once a week.
One thing is clear though. Moving our bodies, whether through yoga or any other exercise, will cause a sudden spike in immune cells. So just in case you’re wondering how can you boost your immune system in as short as 24 hours, some moderate movement is a way to go.
That said, the immune cell count returns back to normal a few hours after the exercise. To boost your immunity in the long run, you need to make physical activity consistent. Whether you’re practicing yoga, running, walking or resistance training, it is the regularity of your movement that will bring lasting benefits for your immune system.
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2/4 How does yoga boost the immune system?
So what is the exact effect of yoga on our immune system? The truth is that scientists still dwell upon this question.
There are a number of theories how yoga can help you improve immunity naturally and fight off diseases more easily:
- Yoga movement increases blood flow and supports the lymphatic system. This, in turn, results in more immune cells circulating the body, which can potentially help detect and fight off viruses at an early stage.
- Yoga reduces chronic stress. Stress isn’t inherently bad and damaging. In fact, sudden, short bouts of stress can actually boslter our immune response, promoting healing and fighting off infections. However, when our body lives in a constant “fight or flight” mode (think chronic stress), you’ll eventually experience a downward spiral when your immune system weakens as the stress persists. Yoga relaxes the nervous system, triggering a calming parasympathetic response.
- Yoga decreases chronic inflammation. Inflammation can be triggered by a variety of factors including autoimmune disease, chronic stress, or smoking. Your immune response gets compromised if you experience inflammation, making it harder for your body to fight off pathogens. Research has shown that yoga postures coupled with breathing practice reduce the inflammatory markers, leading to less overall inflammation and lower risk of chronic diseases.
- Yoga can help you sleep better. Sleep is essential for normal body functioning. For example, when we sleep our body is releasing proteins called cytokines that support our immune system functioning. When you’re consistently not getting enough sleep, we’ll eventually experience a whole nasty lot of problems including bad focus, mood swings, weight gain, and weakened immunity.
3/4 Can yoga weaken immune system?
Theoretically, yoga can weaken your immune system and slow down the immune response. This might potentially happen if you do too much yoga too fast. By pushing yourself too far while doing yoga or doing too much yoga, you can increase your inflammation level and increase the risk of infections.
However, it’s not easy to compromise your immune system with yoga. You’ll need to practice for a long time and at a very intense level. Think, doing 108 Sun Salutation while being sedentary for the last few months.
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4/4 Which yoga is best for immunity?
Yoga can be a great tool to boost weak immune system and support a strong one. As long as you build a consistent practice on the mat, any type of yoga will eventually help you improve your immune response and reduce inflammation.
That being said, research on exercise and immunity has shown that some types of physical activity might be more effective than others. Moderate-paced aerobic activity such as cycling, running or brisk walking for under an hour are the most effective at boosting immune response. Some experts suggest reaching 70% of your max heart rate for other sports and fitness activities.
In yoga, this would translate into a fast-flowing Vinyasa class that would include Sun Salutations and get your heart pumping.
That being said, relaxing yoga styles that focus on slow movement and mindful breathing can also potentially positively affect your immune system thanks to its stress-relieving properties.
Best yoga poses for immunity
Traditional yoga mentions several groups of poses that can have an immune-boosting and “detoxifying” effect on the body. Thus, yoga for the immune system traditionally includes:
- Inversions. Some examples of inversions are Downward Facing Dog, Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose, Headstand, Shoulder Stand. Inversions are considered soothing for the nervous system that needs to stay balanced for an optimum immune response.
- Heart Openers. Such yoga postures as Cobra pose, Boat Pose, Fish pose are considered to open the lungs for more efficient breathing and help with congestion.
- Twists. Half Lord Of The Fishes, Easy Twist, Revolved Forward Bends are said to help with digestion and gut health, helping our body release toxic build-up. This, in its turn, lowers the risk of inflammation and boosts immunity.