Yoga provides a multitude of health benefits. It can improve muscle strength as well as flexibility. It can increase blood flow and improve lung function in healthy people and people who have asthma or bronchitis.
Additionally, yoga helps decrease psychological stress which can weaken the immune system and fuel chronic inflammation. By reducing the stress hormones that compromise the immune system, yoga has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body, according to research.
You don’t need to be a yoga pro or have expensive yoga attire to get its immunity benefits. Read on for three basic poses (and a bonus foot massage) to boost your immune system.
Lower Stress, Tension & Inflammation
Standing Forward Bend
This pose lengthens and stretches the spine and legs while stimulating digestion. It’s a simple inversion, meaning your head is below your heart. Inversions can increase circulation and lymphatic drainage. NOTE: If you’re pregnant, please work with a yoga teacher to modify this pose.
Get into the pose:
- Stand with feet apart about hip width apart.
- Fold forward from your hips with your weight even in both feet. Your hands or fingertips may touch the floor, or you can rest them on your shins. (Or use yoga blocks if you have them.)
- Without locking your knees, let your sit bones extend up while the crown of your head hangs down. This should be a nice stretch with no pain.
- A slight yes/no nod of the head can feel great in this pose.
- Stay in the pose for 5-10 long breaths.
- Rise slowly. Repeat if desired.
Downward Facing Dog
This pose stretches the legs, Achille’s tendon, arms, and back. It helps relieve tension from the neck and back and can improve posture. As mentioned above, inversions stimulate blood flow and bring stress relief. NOTE: If you have shoulder problems or weak shoulders, talk with your health care provider before trying this one.
Get into the pose:
- On a yoga mat or floor, start on hands and knees.
- With hands shoulder width apart and fingers wide, lift your hips while pressing your heels down. (Your feet don’t have to be flat; heels may be off the floor.)
- Hang your head between your upper arms while keeping your back straight.
- Breathe into the pose, filling your lungs in the back body.
- Breathe out, hollowing the belly at the end of each exhalation.
- Hold for 30 seconds to 3 minutes.
This relaxing pose relieves tension and fatigue from your back and opens the hips. It aids in digestion by gently massaging your internal organs. Child’s pose is restful and calming. It is said to elevate the mood and rejuvenate the mind. It also stimulates circulation. NOTE: If you’re pregnant, please work with a yoga teacher to modify this pose.
Get into the pose:
- Kneel on your mat or the ground and sit back on your heels, hands on your thighs.
- With knees together or slightly apart, bow forward so your belly rests on your thighs.
- Reach your arms forward at shoulder width. (You can also rest your arms beside your legs, palms down for a more passive pose.)
- Rest your head on the mat/floor or on a blanket or pillow.
- Breathe, feeling your lungs expand in your back body.
- Continue breathing here for 30 seconds to 3 minutes.
- Come back to sitting position. Repeat if desired.
If you love these and want more, try this immune-strengthening yoga sequence.
Foot Rolling Massage
Before you go, here’s a bonus exercise to try post workout, at your desk while working, or before bed.
Rolling your foot on a ball provides a self-myofascial release, which is a massage that relieves tension in the fibrous connective tissue beneath your skin, called fascia. This easy exercise can relieve pain, prevent injury, improve circulation, and stimulate lymphatic drainage. Studies also find that it decreases stress and anxiety.
Foot Massage Steps:
- Sit in a chair with both feet bare and on the floor.
- Put a tennis ball, lacrosse ball, golf ball, or spiky massage ball under your foot.
- Position the ball under your inner arch and lean forward until you feel pressure. It may feel a bit intense at first. If it’s too much pressure, lean back more. For more pressure, try the massage while standing.
- Roll the ball slowly toward the heel, across the foot, and back up the other side.
- If you hit an intense spot, try pointing and flexing your toes for more release in that spot.
- Massage the entire foot in these slow circles for 1-3 minutes.
- After 3 minutes, decrease the pressure and roll the ball more quickly, back and forth or in little circles.
- Repeat on the other foot.
We hope these stretches feel great and help you relax. If you’re looking for other ways to strengthen the immune system, check out this article.