In the western world we often see Yoga as simply Asanas (postures), or a
fitness regime designed for building muscles and improving flexibility. In
fact Asanas are just one part of the Yoga system, The goal is to bring stillness
to the mind, to be present in our actions and reverse the effects of our
high energised ever moving fast paced life styles. It's about relaxing the
body and the mind. It's letting go of the past, allowing yourself a reprieve
from the future and standing still for one moment in the here and now. By
doing so we clear our minds which is often clouded by years of unconscious
perceptions and actions which have become habitualised in our minds. When
we are free of our habitualised perceptions and actions we are able to perceive
the world and situations clearly so that we may make the correct decisions
and act accordingly.
Our immune system and yoga
Learn why we need to support our entire body in order to promote our immune
system. By caring for you body and mind we allow our body to return the
What is immunity?
Immunity is the body's ability to avoid infection, disease, and other unwanted
biological invasions by resisting harmful microorganisms or viruses. We have
different types of immunity.
o Innate immunity: is used to describe our body's
barriers to infection. These include our skin, tears, saliva and mucus, acid
in our stomachs and engulfing cells in our blood stream that eat up pathogens
and foreign materials (phagocytes). These defences are built in, we are born
with them. They are the frontline troops that are replenished constantly.
o Adaptive immunity: The second line of defence,
your cavalry, are a more complicated bunch. They are very specific. Adapting
to a situation, overcoming it and remembering from experience (how we learn
and live in life) By adapting to a particular bacteria or virus, and remembering
them, our bodies can become immune to future invasions. These cells are pretty
aggressive. They check the protein markers of all cell membranes.. like a
ticket inspector.. making sure they are meant to be there. If they are not,
it goes into terminator mode.
o We also can acquire immunity. Antibodies and
immune cells are passed on by our mothers through breast milk, and we can
acquire antibodies from getting a low grade version of a disease that's active
enough to stimulate our immune response but not make us feel sick (e.g.
We have several different types of fighting cells including T-cells and B-cells,
which depending on the pathogen (the baddie), further divide up into even
more fighting cells. These guys react in different ways depending on what
they are fighting and their defence tactics are top notch and complicated.
The most important thing to realize is that our body has a well organized
army at hand to protect you!
An interplay between the systems.
You could look at the workings of our body in terms of systems. These systems
can be 'separate" yet also one of a whole. They rely on each other and if
one is out of balance, it will knock all the others out of whack too! Our
immune system is a complicated and beautiful example of the intricacies of
our body. Our immune system works across most of our body's systems, so in
order to support our immune system we have to support our entire body. Our
lymphatic, circulatory, endocrine and nervous system are the major players
when it comes to our immunity.
So how can we support our immunity?
The most important thing you can do is support the overall health of your
body. This means we need to try to live healthy. Eat well, exercise, feel
well in body and mind, have a good work life balance, have well honed stress
management skills etc. Don't forget the important link between the mind body
connection. Your mental health is also just as important.
As I just mentioned above we have a few systems that work very closely with
our immunity and I want to briefly talk about them so that you can understand
why it's a good idea to support their functions in order to boost your health
o The lymphatic system
Our Lymphatic system plays a very important role in our immunity and overall
health. The main mode of transport of our lymphocytes (immune cells) is through
our lymphatic system. It's like our internal plumbing! Our lymph vessels
are found running alonside our blood vessels and capillaries. They pick up
waste material and other substances that are too large to be taken by our
blood and carry it to lymph nodes. We have many nodes in our body found in
blaces like our groin, armpits, back of the knees and throat. They are like
water treatment facilities. They filter out the lymph, eating up waste material
and baddies and even infuse our lymph with fresh immune cells. Our nodes
are the site of antibodies production so when we are ill we can often find
our nodes to be swoolen (swollen glands in our neck for example) because
they are working hard at protecting us. From these nodes lymph is moved along
to our ducts - which release the cleaned material which is now full of antibodies
back into the blood stream.
o The Circulatory System
Our circulatory system is basically our heart and our blood. Our blood carries
oxygen, nutrients and our immune cells to all the different parts of our
body. This ensures that we get enough food, energy, oxygen and immune cells.
Its makes sure that our immune cells get to the site of infection.
o The Endocrine System
Our endocrine system, also known as our hormonal system, is one of the big
bosses of our body. Together with our nervous system it regulates our bodily
systems. Glands like our thyroid, hypothalamus and adrenal are just but a
few included in our endocrine system. Our hormones influence every cell,
organ and function in our body and regulates our mood, growth, development,
reproduction etc. Certain hormones produced by our endocrine system are
responsible for the maturation of our T-cell lymphocytes. So the maturity
of our immune system is directly linked to our endocrine system.
o The Nervous System
The other 'big boss' of our body, our nervous system controls our bodily
movements, conscious and unconscious. It is also responsible for stimulating
our stress response (fight or flight) and our relaxation response (rest and
digest). When our stress response is stimulated our adrenal glands release
stress hormones into our blood which can stifle our immune response. Long
story short, being and feeling stress negatively affects your immune system.
Our nervous system also directly affects our Endocrine system which affects
our immunity etc.