We usually hear about it first from someone else. One of the kids at daycare falls victim to it. Your co-worker comes down with it. You hear about the first few cases of it on the news.
We’ll do everything we can to avoid it. The dreaded, the awful, the debilitating...influenza.
Viruses are funny things. Deadly things. We can get the flu shot, which may offer some protection. We can wash our hands, and avoid touching our face. But hands-down our best line of defense against influenza is our own immune system.
Our immune system is designed to protect our cells from viral replication. Even if we are exposed to a virus, our immune proteins are devised to target the intruder and stop it from invading and multiplying.
While there’s no substitute for getting enough sleep at night and eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables each day, there is recent research suggesting another possible health benefit to our favorite pastime at 229Yoga.
Hand sanitizers, step aside. No wait, let’s definitely keep those.
Yet let’s also make way for yoga as the one of the many ways that you can avoid succumbing to the flu. And it’s not just about exercise. Yoga works by empowering your immune system.
Yoga Increases Immune Proteins that Help Fight Influenza
According to a pilot study published in the Journal of Complementary Medicine, a regular yoga practice (90 minutes once per week with an instructor and 40 minutes at home daily with a DVD) for 12 weeks increased a number of powerful antioxidant enzymes, as well as specific immune system proteins (1,2,5) that help you fight off the flu.
Most importantly, a regular yoga practice increased levels of interferon-γ (gamma), an extremely important immune protein that helps to reduce viral takeover of our cells after we are exposed.
Mind-body therapies like yoga may also influence virus-specific immune responses to vaccination(3). This means if you do get the flu shot and practice yoga, then the combination may be more likely to help prevent you from coming down with the flu than just receiving the flu shot alone.
Yoga Empowers our Immunity by Reducing Stress
Many of us are familiar with the fact that yoga can reduce the perception of stress. Decreased stress is followed by a reduction of hormones that are released with stress, such as cortisol.
Cortisol is a natural hormone that helps us feel awake and mentally alert. However, when chronic stress causes increased cortisol levels throughout the day and even into the night, our immune system suffers.
That’s because cortisol is an immune suppressor, and it tamps down our immune system.
Yoga practice and mindfulness-based stress reduction can lower cortisol levels(4) and help to remove the immune-dampening effects related to stress.
Be sure to deploy your best tactics to avoid influenza this year, or in any year. Incorporate moments of mindfulness into your day, and assume some of the yoga poses (asanas) which will serve to empower your immune system against the flu.
Book a yoga class today. Schedule online at https://clients.mindbodyonline.com/classic/ws?studioid=118538
Be sure to download the MindBody App to see the current schedule and to book easily right from your smartphone or tablet.
“I didn’t realize what a stress-filled life I led, until after my first yoga class, when all that stress was removed.
It was like waking up next to calm, peaceful waters after living life inside a tempest.” -Joy
Lim SA, Cheong KJ. Regular Yoga Practice Improves Antioxidant Status, Immune Function, and Stress Hormone Releases in Young Healthy People: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Controlled Pilot Study. J Altern Complement Med. 2015 Sep;21(9):530-8. doi: 10.1089/acm.2014.0044. Epub 2015 Jul 16. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26181573
Cahn BR, Goodman MS, Peterson CT, Maturi R, Mills PJ. Yoga, Meditation and Mind-Body Health: Increased BDNF, Cortisol Awakening Response, and Altered Inflammatory Marker Expression after a 3-Month Yoga and Meditation Retreat. Front Hum Neurosci. 2017 Jun 26;11:315. doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2017.00315. eCollection 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28694775
Morgan N, Irwin MR, Chung M, Wang C. The effects of mind-body therapies on the immune system: meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2014 Jul 2;9(7):e100903. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0100903. eCollection 2014. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24988414
Pascoe MC, Thompson DR, Ski CF. Yoga, mindfulness-based stress reduction and stress-related physiological measures: A meta-analysis. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2017 Dec;86:152-168. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.08.008. Epub 2017 Aug 30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28963884
Muehsam D, Lutgendorf S, Mills PJ, Rickhi B, Chevalier G, Bat N, Chopra D, Gurfein B. The embodied mind: A review on functional genomic and neurological correlates of mind-body therapies. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2017 Feb;73:165-181. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2016.12.027. Epub 2016 Dec 23. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28017838