Yoga for Winter Immunity
Rochelle Wagstaff is an Ashtanga Yoga teacher and acupuncturist. She lives on the Central Coast with her family and is the Director of the Acupuncture Pregnancy Clinic in Gosford. To contact her visit http://www.acupunctureivf.com.au.
As winter is on us and there are some nasty bugs lurking about, we are all looking for ways to boost our immunity this season. From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Yoga Asana and Pranayama are effective in stimulating the channel systems and internal organs that play a key role in maintaining immunity.
Traditional Chinese Medicine considers that the immune system is strongly affected by the function and health of the internal organs- mostly the Lungs, Kidney and Spleen. If these organs are well balanced they will support the immune system (Wei Qi) and prevent you from being easily effected by external pathogenic factors (Colds and Flu). This explains why some people are more resilient, or are better able to shake off the flu before it takes hold.
In TCM the Lungs dominate breathing and the skin. It is the first organ of defence against colds, flu, wind and heat. Common symptoms of lowered immunity due to Lung deficiency are hay fever, sore throat, runny nose headaches and cough. Any yoga postures that open the chest, such as Back Bends, Parsvottanasana (Side Forward Bend), and Parivrtta Trikonasana (Revolved Triangle) are going to encourage Qi flow through the lungs and muscles of respiration, as is a regular pranayama practice.
Another organ attributed to the body’s immune system is the Spleen. The Spleen is one of the major organs of digestion and responsible for spreading Qi and Blood to the rest of the body. If this organ is over worked due to improper foods or fatigue, it not only consumes a lot of energy, but fails to transport the Qi and Blood that should be supporting other organ systems- including Wei Qi to the Lungs. Furthermore if transportation of nutrients is sluggish then fluids can pool leading to dampness. In TCM thick phlegm on the chest from a cold needs the help for the Spleen and Lungs to shift. Sun Salutes, Forward Bends and Spinal Twists will gently massage and invigorate blood supply to the digestive system.
So in the prevention of colds and flu this winter yoga practitioners will have a head start. The very act of working through Yoga Asana warms and enlivens the Qi of the whole body, which when healthy and strong is then better able to act in our defence. Eat well, stay warm and look forward to seeing you on the mat this winter.