Dec 14, 2017 12:16 PM
It's that time of year when schedules get hectic with working long hours, eating on-the-go, and getting little sleep. There's the robust urge to nibble on sweet treats while we dash around from one holiday party to the next raising our glasses to toast the merriment of the season. Operating at full-speed aiming to complete the workload of one year before we head into the next – and have fun along the way – our stress levels often elevate and it's not uncommon to hear an echo of sniffles and coughs. While not always the case, many people report that winter afflictions (feeling tired, sore throat, congestion) creep up in times of stress, when they're pushing themselves too hard.
In addition to a balanced diet, regular exercise, proper rest and washing your hands, better your chances of staying healthy this holiday season by nourishing your body and mind with yoga. For thousands of years, yoga has not only helped to ward off seasonal colds but it has also helped yogis to achieve optimum levels of health and vitality. When yoga postures are practiced mindfully they help to strengthen the immune system by lowering stress hormones that compromise the immune system, stimulate the thymus gland (which plays an important role in the development of the immune system), and promote deep relaxation (during times of complete rest the immune system is able to work to destroy foreign bodies and bacteria).
Yoga creates a physiological and mental response that occurs when the body consciously relaxes. To relax is to rest deeply and this is different from sleep. It is a state where there is no movement, no effort, and the mind is quiet. Muscular tension is reduced, blood pressure becomes balanced, circulation is improved and the immune system is restored to allow the body an opportunity to heal.
The yoga tradition also suggests that compromised immune functioning may result from poor digestion. Improper digestion may lead to the build up of toxins in the body, which in turn may manifests as disease so practicing yoga poses that gently compress, twist, or extend the abdominal area can ease digestive ailments. Not only does yoga bolster the digestive and immune system but it also stimulates the lymphatic system to facilitate the removal toxins from the body and bring oxygenated blood to the various organs to ensure their optimal function.
While yoga postures support the immune, digestion and nervous systems, the benefits of yoga don't stop there. Since both colds and flu stress the respiratory system, the slow controlled breathing techniques (pranayama) often included in yoga classes work to relax the nervous system, help combat stress and strengthen the lungs and respiratory tract to help clear mucus from the sinuses.
Instead of reaching for the Kleenex or NeoCitran this winter, opt for your yoga mat (and your neti pot!) and roll into the New Year feeling restored from the holidays. And if you do succumb to illness, you'll find yoga postures provide just the rest and relaxation you need to get better.