Laughter is the best medicine! When a person lets out a big ol’ belly laugh they tend to throw their head and shoulders back, letting their hearts shine. The added benefit of laughter is the manner in which this posture stimulates the thymus, a lymph organ located beneath the breastbone. Inside the thymus, T-cells are produced and sent throughout the body to attack antigens (grass, pollen, germs, viruses, etc.) that may compromise health. Heart opening and back bending asanas (poses), which are part of many yoga classes, create this same laughing posture, stimulating the thymus and serving to keep yogis healthy.
The immediate benefits of yoga are not only felt in the lymphatic system, but in the nervous system as well, helping to further strengthen the immune system. Through certain pranayama (breathwork) practices and meditation, yogis learn how to move their bodies into a relaxation response, counteracting the negative effects of the flight or fight response. Rather than precious energy being wasted in conflict with everyday stressors and anxiety, yoga encourages the body to relax, leaving the immune system with more resources to fight antigens.
Yogis, here are some of the poses and movements that help keep us healthy:
Chubby Checker definitely had it right! When a yogi twists to the right they are giving the spleen, located in the upper left part of the abdomen under the rib cage, room to breathe. When they twist to the left they’re wringing out the toxins. The spleen is the lymph organ responsible for cleaning the blood, and with this clearing of the bloodstream, helps to fight off infection. By twisting in class, yogis are rejuvenating the spleen and further strengthening the immune system.
Forward Folding and Inversions
Mucus membranes, which line the respiratory system, act as a barrier within the immune system. Something as simple as a forward fold or as challenging as an inversion can help these mucus membranes to drain, clearing the sinuses so they can continue to protect the body against antigens.
Not into yoga but still want to boost your immunity? Try these quick tips:
- Drink hot water with lemon every morning – The Vitamin C, hydration, and digestion stimulation, boosts immunity.
- Twist – Sit tall, reaching the crown of your head to the sky; twist from your naval center to gaze over your right shoulder, and take a few deep breaths. Repeat the twist to gaze over your left shoulder.
- Open your heart – Stand with your hands clasped behind you, squeeze your elbows together, lift your gaze, and let your heart and thymus shine.
- Fold forward – Allow your head to drop below your heart and let your fingertips trail the ground (don’t worry about having straight legs). This serves to not only clear your sinuses, but also provides the body with all natural, non-caffeinated, energy as the blood flows from the heart to the head. (Use caution if you have high blood pressure.)
- Practice silence – Conserve energy by practicing silence, allowing your immune system to function uncompromised by the added stress of unnecessary conversations.