Looking to Strengthen Immunity? Do more Yoga!
It's likely you've heard about so called superfoods - foods which, according to the Oxford dictionary are "nutrient-rich foods considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being." I associate my daily yoga practice with stress relief, easing anxiety, and getting my daily stretch on, but recently I found a study that shows that yoga can potentially strengthen your immune system as well. Yoga - the blueberry of movement! It made sense to me, once I considered it, after understanding how much of our mind body experience is all connected.
In this paper, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of California-San Diego, Chopra Library for Integrative Studies, and Harvard University explored natural therapies and practices with anti-viral capabilities to suggest integrative treatments for building up immunity and disease prevention. Their conclusion was that “certain meditation, yoga postures, and breathing practices may possibly be effective in treating and/or preventing infections and illness". This paper pulled from more than 100 different scientific studies on yoga and immunity to look at remedies that supplement primary treatments such as drugs or vaccines. The researchers, led by William Bushell, PhD, a biophysical/medical anthropologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, pointed to a body of scientific evidence that demonstrates the anti-stress and anti-inflammatory properties of such practices. Meditation and yoga increase people’s vagal tone, part of the body's parasympathetic nervous system. The vagal tone regulates the body’s stress response, making meditation, yoga, and breathing practices effective treatment options for stress-based trauma and inflammatory-based diseases.
Bushell also cited that the research and understanding of yoga and meditation as anti-inflammatory is not a new discovery. General scientific research has often correlated yoga with a positive result. He also cites a study that showed that yoga practices helped regulate levels of proinflammatory receptors and reduced the expression of proinflammatory genes. Furthermore, it was notes that yoga may potentially enhance the activity of melatonin. Most often associated with sleep, melatonin has a wide array of functions in the body that include anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and-infectious, and immune-enhancing actions on most of the cells and organs of the body.
Extreme chronic stressors are known to be capable of leading to an overwhelmed immune system, compromising the body’s ability to mount an effective immune response to infectious challenges and leaving the person susceptible to infections. Scientific research shows that stress can not only substantially reduce immune defenses, but also overstimulate inflammatory responses. The researchers conclude that there is evidence that the practice of yoga and breathing practices can potentially improve immune system function and improve overall well-being.
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