5 Yoga Poses to Boost Your OM-munity
Have you ever noticed that a day after you start your vacation you get sick? Or perhaps a sniffle or cough comes on right before your important work presentation? Or maybe you get taken out by a sore throat or ear ache when you have the most on your plate?
Sadly, bacteria and viruses don’t work around our schedule and can take up residence in your body whether you invite them in or not. The immune system has important job to do each and every day, and if we are sleep deprived, eating on the run, overwhelmed and stressed out, and not taking good care of our body, mind, and emotions, it has a profound effect on its ability to ward off dis-ease.
The health of a women’s immune system depends on the health of all our systems. For almost every health condition a woman faces, we can often trace it back to hormonal imbalances. Colds and flu included, since one of our many systems responsible for a strong immune system is the endocrine system, which includes your ovaries, pituitary, adrenals, thyroid, and hypothalamus. All these organs/ glands are also directly responsible for your monthly menstrual (moon) cycle and regulating hormones.
The nervous, digestive, and circulatory systems also work along with your endocrine system to boost your immune system’s response to invaders. However, if we are experiencing stress and overwhelm, for example, these system functions are jeopardized. This in turn influences your hormones causing you to become susceptible to sickness.
In addition, your emotional state affects your physical health so if you are feeling healthy and vibrant, mostly likely your immune system does too and the team of trillions on white blood cells will attack unwelcome invaders with no fear. Except that throughout a woman’s monthly cycle our emotions can be a roller coaster ride ultimately impacting our ability to stay healthy and virus free.
Our yoga asana practice is a refuge where we can go and take time to nourish and replenish all our systems so that they can function optimally. Yoga asana can help improve our circulation, support our central nervous system, clear the mind, balance emotions, and uplift the spirit. Each of these individual benefits will, collectively, assist in harmonizing the endocrine system and stabilize hormones.
In addition, we want to be sure that we get adequate sleep, 8-9 hours a night, eat foods high in vitamin C and A which stimulate our immunity, and surround ourselves with joy and laughter. Laughter also helps fuel and boost immunity and encourages a positive outlook which helps too!
Helps to increase upper body circulation, bring fresh blood to the brain, energizes the legs, and is soothing and calming for intense emotions especially when done with a block or bolster under the head. Calm and rejuvenate!
Puts pressure on the belly which increase blood flow to the abdominal organs which is full of the white blood cells that help us fight invaders. Bow also activates the thymus in the chest that is the primary immune system organ. Invigorate and enliven!
Is calming for the central nervous system and allows the adrenals to relax by receiving the ‘sign’ that there is no distress from your long, deep breaths. Then the immune and digestive systems can return to a balanced state and circulate freely to look for those pesky ‘invaders’. This pose can also be great right before bed to assist in a better nights sleep. Restore and relax!
Stimulates the spleen, kidneys, liver, and circulation to the belly and reproductive organs which produce immune cells. It also stimulates the flow of lymph fluid through the nodes in groin and the armpits. Replenish and renew!
Helps bring oxygenated blood to your thyroid and parathyroid glands, supports the lymphatic system in passive circulation, calms the mind and emotions, and soothes nerves if you feel stressed or overwhelmed. Moving in to Plow pose will also help to balance your entire endocrine system which in turn will balance your hormones and emotions.
I also suggest practicing according to your monthly cycle and changing what you practice when in accordance to where you are in your personal cycle. This will make these asanas even more potent and powerful keeping you healthy and balanced all year long. Read my article, Manage Your Mood: Balance Your Cycle With Your Practice to learn how to practice according to your monthly cycle.
Top 10 Yoga Poses for Headaches
Yoga can be a beneficial therapeutic tool for relieving headaches brought on by muscle tension and stress. The majority of headaches originate from muscle stiffness and imbalances emanating from the neck and upper back. When headaches set in, using a series of restorative yoga exercises can greatly relieve both the cause and symptoms. Here are our top yoga poses and exercises that naturally treat headaches.
1. Cat Pose: The flowing motion of breath and spine helps release tension from the neck and upper back while also pouring refreshing energy through the body and mind.
2. Seated Twists: Besides increasing circulation throughout the entire length of the spine, the twisting motion in the upper spine (cervical region) often alleviates tension coming from the scalene muscles of the neck (anterior aspect).
3. Chest Openers: Much of the tension in the back body is a result of muscle dominance from the front body (called Upper Cross Syndrome). Expanding the chest and front shoulder muscles helps break down muscular imbalances and frees the tension coming from the neck.
4. Eagle Arms: This simple crossed arm pose can be done in Mountain Pose or any natural seated posture. This back expander can reach well into the mid and upper back targeting problematic muscles around the shoulder blades and the base of the neck. Take time in this arm pose to breath slow and full into the upper back and insure that you perform this arm pose on both sides.
5. Simple Neck Stretches: Gently move through the various muscle fiber lines by allowing your head to float down to one shoulder with gravity, down across the chest and into the other side – repeat with a natural, unforced motion. Avoid letting the head fall back-keep the motion in a half circle from one shoulder to the other. Pause where you find extra areas of resistance.
6. Child’s Pose: A perfect restorative yoga pose that slightly inverts the body. A gentle flow of extra blood circulates into the head helping relieve tension. With the legs slightly separated, you can easily settle into deep core and back breathing to encourage a flood of circulation to reach deep into the body. Note that the head and neck should be absolutely comfortable. If needed, keep you arms forward or bend the elbows and rest the forearms by your chest/under your shoulders so the palms face up-this will greatly unload any pressure from the neck.
7. Two Knee Reclining Twist: Unlike our seated twists, this reclining twist can be far more restorative and held longer to bring deeper focus into relaxing the nervous system while the chest expands and rejuvenates the spine. Give extra attention to releasing the shoulders into the mat to release dominance of the shoulder and chest muscles.
8. Legs Up The Wall Pose: This highly beneficial inverted pose is great for developing hamstring flexibility and for improving circulation in the lower limbs. For headaches, the extra flow of blood to the brain and the restorative support can be deeply relaxing and nourishing.
9. Alternate Nostril Breathing: The aim of alternate nostril breathing is to restore balance to the energy systems. With balance, we find release and calm. This yoga breathing exercise is easy to do for all levels and targets the nervous system by slowing brain waves, calming the mind, and purging stress.
10. Relaxation Pose: After doing a series of restorative yoga poses, take some time to simply relax and release in Savasana. Turn the focus away from the symptoms of your headache and settle into the sensation of mental and physical release. You may find a light eye pillow helpful in moving tension/pressure out of the eyes and forehead. Increase your comfort by placing a bolster under the knees and a thin pillow under the head. To complement the chest openers and reclining twists, lay with the arms open to the sides/palms facing the ceiling.