Yoga For Colds: 9 Immune-Boosting Poses & 5 Surprising Science-Backed Hacks
It’s no fun to come down with a common cold or bug, but it happens to the best of us.
The achy body, runny nose, non-stop cough, sore throat, headache, and low energy levels can stop us dead in our tracks by challenging us to slow down and take up rest when our mind, to-do’s, and calendars beg us to keep going.
If you’re already reaching for the Theraflu or vitamin C, science says the following 5 unlikely things may just be the perfect addition to your immune-boosting arsenal…
But first – here are 9 immunity strengthening yoga asanas (yoga poses) that yogis swear by.
Be sure to add them to your current yoga practice whenever you start feeling under the weather:
Viprarita Karani (Legs Up the Wall Pose)
Keeping your legs up on a wall for at least five minutes will enhance blood circulation, which not only boosts immunity but also provides a nice little soothing pause.
Setu Bandhasana (Bridge Pose)
Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
Ustrasana (Camel Pose)
Adho mukha svanasana (Downward Facing Dog)
Matsyasana (Fish Pose)
Halasana (Plow Pose)
Savasana (Corpse Pose)
Backbends and poses like fish pose and camel pose are known to stimulate the thymus gland (a key gland of the immune system.)
Although you may feel drained of energy whilst sick it’s beneficial to practice yoga at your own pace.
Simply hold these poses for a few full breaths and be gentle and easy with your body.
And now, without further ado… 5 additional and surprising ways to beat that pesky cold…
It turns out that laughter can truly be excellent medicine!
Several studies have determined that sustained laughter and humor can indeed boost and strengthen the immune system by:
– increasing antibodies that help us fight off colds and bugs (1)
– increasing the activity of various immune system cells, including white blood cells. (2) (3)
In one particular study led by Dr. Lee Berk from Loma Linda University, California, it was found that just the expectation of a good laugh or even watching a comedy movie or video had a double effect: (4)
1 – It lowered the levels of 2 stress hormones:
cortisol (down 39%)
epinephrine aka adrenaline (down 70%).
(This is really important because raised stress hormones weaken immunity.)
2- Increased the levels of two hormones known to boost mood and immunity:
- beta-endorphins, which elevate mood (up 27%)
- human growth hormone aka HGH which helps to elevate immune function (up by 87%).
Get ahead of the next cold or bug by making it a habit to crack up often and build up your immune cell activity.
And if you’re already down for the count right now, why not watch one of your fave funny movies, stand-up comedian, or viral funny video?
According to studies, experiencing regular orgasms can lead to increased DHEA levels.
DHEA is a hormone that helps boost immunity. (5)
Orgasms can also increase immune cell activity along with the same antibodies that protect against colds and infections. (6)
In fact, experiencing weekly or twice weekly orgasms might lead to a 30% increase in antibody levels according to a study by Wilkes University! (7)
As if we needed another reason to pleasure ourselves more!
3. Belly breathing
Apart from helping us destress and calm down, deep belly breathing can also help us fight germs, bugs, and any other potential invaders.
When we breathe intentionally, deeply, and with our lower belly we activate a muscle called the diaphragm.
This muscle is located above the gut and internal organs and below the lungs.
By activating this muscle we massage the internal organs and glands, which helps move lymph (fluid containing the immune system’s white blood cells) throughout the body to their targeted locations. (8)
Your gut is home to about 80% of your immune system, by the way!
Follow the emblem below as it prompts you to inhale and exhale. Imagine the emblem representing your lungs as they expand with each inhalation and contract with each expiration. Visualize your internal organs being massaged and the white blood cells moving along to do their thing and reach their targeted areas:
Cuddling, hugging, or even just touching does wonders for our bodies and minds because engaging in these actually sends signals of safety to our nervous system.
This results in the release of “happy hormones” like oxytocin and serotonin.
These two hormones combined together boost immunity.
One study out of Carnegie Mellon University found that people who hugged more frequently were less likely to contract a cold after being exposed to the virus. (9)
Of those that did get a cold, the study showed that the huggers’ symptoms were actually less severe.
It’s also been found that increased oxytocin via cuddling, hugging, and touching increases T-cell activity. (10)
You’ll recall T-cells being your immune system’s little warriors that are trained to recognize and kill infected cells.
So go ahead and give your pooch, kitty, significant other, or friend, and extra-long cuddle sesh today. 😉
5. Forest Bathing
Japan’s been studying the physical and psychological effects of being in nature and as it turns out – trees, greenery, and fresh air are really great for our immunity.
In 1982 Japan launched a national health program called “Shrinrin-Yoku,” which means ‘taking in the forest atmosphere.’
It’s all about spending time in nature and “immersing” ourselves in mindful union with its surroundings.
No active stuff – no jogging, exercising – just quiet, mindful contemplation amongst the trees.
It’s been found that forest bathing helps boost our body’s count of natural killer (NK) immune cells, thereby strengthening overall immune function. (11)
Breathing in the forest air and communing with nature was also found to lower stress hormones like cortisol. (12)
Remember that high cortisol levels compromise our immune function, so get out there and walk barefoot on the grass and take in that forest air!
So there you have it… 5 totally unlikely things to help strengthen your immune function and fend off pesky colds and bugs.
For increased healing, practice these 5 things along with what you’d usually do to nurse yourself back to health – warm vegetable soup, lots of deep rest, vitamins and supplements, and lots of fluids, etc.
Because deep belly breathing offers us so many other mental, emotional, and physical benefits like increased inner calm, mental focus, vital energy, and deep rest try starting a 5-minute breathing meditation practice daily.
In the grand scheme of things taking just 5 minutes out of the 1,440 minutes in your day is totally doable and worth every second.
(8) Jahnke O.M.D., Roger (2013-07-02). The Healer Within: Using Traditional Chinese Techniques To Release Your Body’s Own Medicine *Movement *Massage *Meditation *Breathing (p. 40). HarperCollins.