Supporting the Life Force: Yoga for Immunity
The immune system has been called the "floating brain"; it has memory, re-activityand informs our being regarding where our boundaries lie. Thus, it is essential in sustaining our deepest life force. Maintaining a vibrant immune system is a central aim of the yogic practice.
In the yogic system the subtle channels in the body, nadis or little rivers, house our vital fluids. Nadis are best described as vessels or conduits for prana and the word nadi implies movement, resonance, or flow. The nadis become blocked through an imbalanced lifestyle, or patterns of fear or anxiety. In addition to yoga practice, we can reflect on our lifestyle choices and allow time for retreat where deep healing occurs. We allow for rejuvenation by listening and responding to the intelligence of the body.
The following poem by Rumi illuminates this wisdom:
Your intelligence is always with you,
overseeing your body,
even though you may not be aware of its work.
If you start doing something against
your health, your intelligence
will eventually scold you.
Your intelligence is marvellously intimate.
It’s not in front of you, or behind,
or to the left or the right.
More intelligent than intellect,
and more spiritual than spirit.
No being is unconnected
to that reality, and that connection
cannot be said. There, there’s
no separation and no return.
There are guides who can show you the way.
Use them. But they will not satisfy your longing.
Keep wanting that connection
with all your pulsing energy.
Like the nadis, the lymphatic system is comprised of vessels and nodes which house the lymph fluid- filtering, purifying, and attacking pathogens. The lymphatic system is also compromised by stress and the majority of immune diseases are stress related: "Our biography becomes our biology". Lymph nodes are concentrated in the neck, upper chest, under arms, digestive system, and inner groins. Other major components of the immune system are the thymus gland located behind the upper sternum, the spleen, and bone marrow.
The lymphatic system lacks a pumping mechanism and relies on muscular movement as well as the circulation created by healthy breathing patterns. Asana practice promotes the flow of lymph through long holds, twists, and inversions. Our aim is to bathe the heart, throat, and head by placing the head below the hips and promoting ease around the cranium. By applying and releasing pressure around the under arms and groins we stimulate the flow of lymph to these areas.
The breath is perhaps the most effective in moving fluids throughout the body. We can visualize moving the breath from the core to the periphery of the body.
Asana Practice for Immunity:
Please note the asanas given are not for all levels and should be practiced with the guidance of an experienced teacher. The sequence is meant to boost immunity not to cure any condition.
Supta Padangusthasana I– sacrum on a bolster, upper arms in line with shoulders to open top chest and create jalandhara bandha.
Adho Mukha Svanasana– head supported on bolster, all senses soft. Delineating boundaries- fingers, and toes, skin.
Virasana with garudasana arms
BharadvajasanaVinyasa- movement of head and neck, breath and movement.
Chaturanga- hold under diaphragm, liver and spleen squeeze.
Urdhva Mukha Svanasana- inner hands root to draw center of chest upwards, lift collarbones. Uttanasana- head support on two blocks, strap outer feet to awaken inner leg. Parsvakonasana- partner work: use strap to externally rotate front thigh and open groins.
Prasarita Padottansana- head support.
Virabhadrasana I - back heel on block to open front groin. Strong internal rotation of back leg. Upward movement of spine, release head back, open throat from sternum. Vinyasa between chest opening while sitting on heels to "rabbit" pose with crown of head on floor and back body wide.
Sirsasana- kneeling on chair with head supported on bolster or full pose with feet wide. Kapotasana- hands on chair to support opening the front body. Strong internal rotation of back leg, turn back hip forward to open groin and bring ease to the sacrum.
Paryankasana over bolster
Partner work to narrow front of pelvis and widen sacrum. Hold ASIS (anterior superior iliac spines) and draw them together.
Dhanurasana- with bolster to liver/spleen, abdominal lymph massage.
Ardha matsyendrasana- in half lotus to stimulate lymph nodes in groins.
Salamba Sarvangasana- support with a chair and bolster under shoulders.
Matsyasana- shoulders supported on block.
Jathara parivarttanasana- with pelvis bolstered.
Viparita karani- sandbags on the feet.
Savasana- sandbags, blankets and head wrapping, thigh bones heavy to rest the bones, eyes watery, pratyahara.