The Role of Yoga in the Immune System

Your body’s immune system is central to your overall health. It detects invaders and protects you from them, whether they are toxins or disease-causing agents such as bacteria and viruses. When it is working well, your immune system prevents chronic diseases, fights infections, and increases your longevity. When it doesn’t work as it should, even if the rest of your body is humming along, trouble lies ahead.

The immune system can malfunction in two ways. First, it can over-react to a substance that normally isn’t a dangerous threat (for instance, to pollen, thus causing an allergic reaction, or to other substances, thus causing arthritis or lupus). Second, it can weaken and fail to react when it should, thus allowing the growth of the cancerous cells, the spread of herpes viruses or the development of conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome. A weakened immune system also makes you more susceptible to less serious conditions, such as colds and flu.

The Immune System

Medical scientists identified the first immune deficiency disease in the 1950s. The most well known, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS appeared on the national scene only within the past fifteen years. The major organs of the immune systems are dispersed throughout the body. These include the lymph nodes (grouped along lymphatic vessels), bone marrow (in the core of bones), the thymus (in the upper part of the chest), and the spleen (on the left side of the abdomen). These and other organs produce and store an array of white blood cells and specialized immune cells that go by names such as T cells (T for thymus), lymphocytes, neutron phils, mast cells, macrophages, and B cells (B for Bone). These cells variously help the body to identify the invading agents, produce antibodies that neutralize or destroy them, turn off the immune reaction when it is no longer needed, and remember the whole process for future reference.

If you don’t take care, your immune system won’t

The cancer pattern is well established in the literature. It is characterized by feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. The sense that you’ve been victimized by factors beyond your control and that you have no power to change that. In recent years we’ve discovered that this same pattern of behavior is connected to other illnesses. Rheumatoid arthritis. Allergies and any immune-related diseases including Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). It’s as if your immune system is acting analogously with your behavior. You’re not trying to change your life or take care of yourself in essence; you’ve just given up. And your immune system says, ‘well if you’ve given up, so will I’ and the result is that the immune system becomes depressed and you are susceptible to a whole host of illnesses.

The practice of Yogasana regenerates the inner defenses of the human body and promotes health. It enables one to discover the self-care that has been hidden in one’s body to flower and to emerge in perfect balance. The well being of a human being, according to Ayurveda system of medicine depends upon the equilibrium of tridosha (Bio-Energies) viz., Vata, Pitta and Kapha. Each dosha has a primary location known as its seat, which serves as a focal point for treatment. Kapha’s seat is the chest and Kapha imbalance principally affects the respiratory system; Vata’s seat is the nervous system and Vata imbalance affects the nervous system, Pitta’s seat is the digestive system and its imbalance affects the digestive system. The digestive system, respiratory system, nervous system, circulatory system, etc help to maintain the health of the tissues in the body.

Yoga to rejuvenate body’s defense system

Any imbalance of a dosha has a tendency to affect the other dosha as they are interconnected and move together. Hence, a Pitta imbalance even though immediately affects the digestive system, may affect the other systems too if the imbalance persists for a long duration of time. Ultimately the nervous system and respiratory system may also get severely impaired. Nature has provided a great healing power in us. Doctors of our system try to imitate this natural power in us and supplement with medical work. Yogasanas play a crucial role in our fight against diseases and in improving the immunity of human body, by boosting the God-given healing power.

Let us now see some of the Yogasanas and how they combat the diseases caused by the imbalance of a dosha. The following description is only indicative and not complete.

Role of Yoga in Immune System

1. Vajrasana vajraImmunity

Vajrasana promotes flow of energy upwards from below and strengthens the body. It is a simple meditative posture. It strengthens the knees, calves and thighs and cures chronic aliments of the knee-joints. Vata, hence, can be controlled. As it aids digestion, pitta is benefited. Vajarasana can be done even immediately after food, to get relief from heaviness in the stomach. The stability of this posture helps to maintain the kapha dosha.

2. Bhujangasana bhujaImmunity

Bhujanga means a serpent. It is one of the classic poses of Yoga as it rectifies all the pitta, vata and kapha doshas. The beauty of the asana is that it can be performed by anyone, irrespective of age. This asana makes the spine – which is the seat of vitality, youthfulness and health – more supple and virile. The spinal region, especially dorsal and vertebral muscles, is toned by this asana. The flow of blood to the lumbar region stimulates the Pelvic portion of the vagus nerve. In addition, this asana normalizes the activity of thyroid. It also tones up adrenaline gland and its hormone, the source of energy.

Bhujangasana helps to produce cortisol, which is essential to comfort certain types of rheumatism. Vata dosha is therefore kept in balance. As Bhujanagasana is practiced, the abdomen is alternately compressed and stretched. This promotes the digestive activity and fights constipation as well as other related ailments of intestines. The liver, gall balder, spleen and pancreas are stimulated by the gentle and deep massage. The blood circulation in the kidneys is normalized by increase intra-abdominal pressure created by the asana. As a result, the kidneys get more supply of blood than before and the diuretic activity is promoted. This helps to maintain the balance of pitta and vata. This asana expands the chest, thereby increasing the in take of fresh air. As a result, the imbalance in kapha is reduced.

This asana helps to increase blood circulation into the base of the spine and recharge the centres of nervous system, particularly those that control the lower part of the stomach as well as the solar plexus. This pose maintains the balance of kapha and vata doshas. The digestive system, as a whole is toned up and stimulated. The functions of the liver and pancreas are improved to very great extent. The working of the intestines is also benefited. Pitta and vata doshas are therefore kept under balance.

4. DhanurasanadhanuImmunity

Dhanurasana increases the secretion of adrenaline, source of energy and cortical, which helps to flight various forms of rheumatism. The pancreas is activated to secrete insulin, which is required to the metabolism of glycogen. Vata and kapha doshas are greatly benefited. The whole digestive system is improved by the intra abdominal pressure. The liver is stimulated. While the activities of the intestines are regulated and toxins are removed, pitta and vata imbalances are rectified to a great extent by this asana.


5. HalasanahalasanaImmunity

This asana rejuvenates the abdominal organs due to contraction. It acts on the entire spinal column, which receives an extra supply of blood, curing backache, if any. As the thyroid gland gets fresh supply of blood its secretion is normalized. As a result, the metabolic function of the body, intestinal activity, blood pressure, mobility of the minatory cells are stimulated and the nervous system is strengthened. This helps vata and kapha doshas.


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