Yoga For the Immune System

A Therapeutic Practice

We know that yoga is good for us.  There are so many proven health benefits that it would be an enormous task to list them.  A recent Norwegian study has even shown that yoga practice has profound, immediate effects at a genetic level; changing the expression of 111 genes in circulating immune cells, compared to 38 genes as a result of nature walking and listening to music.

That’s all well and good, but as cold and flu season approaches, the real question is how can we increase our immune-boosting potential?  What are the best yoga techniques to that end? 

Unfortunately, this is where consensus ends.  Researching this article, I found information that suggests back bends are the way to go, forward bends help, inversions are amazing, Sun Salutations are the answer, twists and anything that stimulates digestion will have the greatest impact, and select breath techniques and kriyas are the solution. So many different opinions!

As a therapeutic yoga teacher the best part of my work is helping people feel better.  I have to consider, though, busy schedules, an often urgent need for relaxation, and physical limitations that make classic yoga poses unwise and inaccessible.  As a result, I frequently adopt a less-is-more approach to teaching yoga. So, I’m scrapping the mounds of complimentary and contradictory advice on the web and going rogue!

Here’s my super-easy, therapeutic yoga practice for the immune system.  Prepare to feel awesome! (Remember that yoga should NEVER hurt and always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program).

● Legs Up the Wall. A fabulous pose for stress-relief, and releasing tension from the legs, hips, and lower back!  Move your butt away from the wall if it’s a big leg stretch.  Close your eyes, soften your body and start to observe the breath. Relax, gradually deepening and ever-mindful of the breath, for 5-15 minutes.

● Joint Circles. One joint at a time, gently circle the following areas: ankles, knees, legs, hips, shoulders, elbows, wrists, neck.  Several easy rotations in each direction.  No clicking or grinding.  Make the movement slower and smaller if this occurs.  Let’s not erode the cartilage that protects us!● Standing Back Bend – standing up straight, take arms several inches away from torso, palms facing forward, fingers outstretched.  Lift chest up and forward slightly as you take the arms subtly back. Breathe and enjoy!● Child Pose

In a nutshell, we’ve cultivated relaxation with our gentle inversion and breath awareness, lubricated the joints and improved circulation through them with joint circles, stretched the front, back and sides of the body, stimulated the digestion in Child Pose, and chilled out again in Corpse.  Done!


Leo is the host of A Brand New Day on Rogers TV, and owns Village Yoga in Toronto.  For more information, visit Follow Leo on Twitter @evolvingleo

Categories: Yoga For Your Health