Immunity is one word we’ve all heard a lot of since the start of the pandemic. Immunity prevents us catching the bug, whether it’s a common cold or Covid-19. Higher your immunity, the lesser your chances of falling sick. Our bodies generate certain antibodies or sensitized white blood cells which prevent an infection or toxin from entering our system and causing any disruptions. Once these immune cells are developed, every time there is a threat from a foreign substance, an immune response is produced to prevent any damage or effects.
How does Immunity Work?
A weak immunity leads to many disorders and illness. From allergies that lead to a cold, flu, sinus, asthma, etc. to, most recently, being susceptible to Covid-19, a person with a weak immune system will constantly go through some issue or the other.
Let’s understand the two types of immune systems - the innate and acquired systems. The innate immune system is what we are born with. Inherited from our parents, these cells are called phagocytes. The acquired immune system is what we build within us over time. With the help of the innate immune system, it produces antibodies through cells called lymphocytes, in the white blood cells, after being exposed to a threat or foreign substance. It can take days to develop but after the first exposure, it defends us against any future threats.
As infants, mother’s milk is an influencing factor that ensures our immune system remains strong. It directly stimulates and supports the immune system by providing vital proteins that balance the system. And, as we grow older, exposure to everyday factors in our environment, like dust, can strengthen immunity. Allowing our bodies to get the right amount of exposure helps the system build required antibodies.
Another factor that influences immunity is oxygen saturation levels. The higher your oxygen saturation (SPO2), the higher your immunity. Studies have found that low oxygen levels can suppress or lower some aspects of the immune response. It reduces the vital chemicals, proteins and antibodies required to maintain a good or high level of immunity. Maintaining lung health is also important for immunity. Our lungs are lined with thin epithelial cells which allow for gas exchange and secrete mucus into the alveoli. Mucus keeps the airways moist and traps unwanted particles that have been inhaled. The lungs also contain small hairs which remove unwanted particles to the throat which is then swallowed and destroyed in the gut or coughed up.
The removal of these particles protects the respiratory system from infections. And, the epithelial linings of the lungs also contain specialised white blood cells called macrophages, which plays an active role in destroying foreign particles in the lungs. The alveoli is also important here - it mixes the blood with air to remove toxins or harmful particles.
Common Causes That Compromise Immunity
- Harmful environmental conditions
- Irregular or unhealthy lifestyle
- Stress, anxiety and sleep disorders
- Unhealthy eating habits
- Excessive alcohol, smoking and drugs
- Constant exposure to toxic or negative environments
- Genetic conditions
- Being shielded or unexposed at a young age
How does Yoga Boost Immunity?
Many studies have proved how yoga practices, especially Pranayama or breathing techniques, help build immunity. Extensive Harvard studies have shown regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle, maintaining low stress levels and adequate sleep are a first step to a good immune system. A study found increased stress levels in a group preparing for an upcoming exam which lowered their immunity, showing us the direct correlation between stress and immunity.
Another Norwegian study looked at the health benefits of yoga in relation to the immune system and found that practicing yoga caused molecular changes that encouraged the circulation of immune cells.
Power of Pranayama and Asanas
Pranayama or breathwork improves respiration, blood flow and lung efficiency, removes toxins, releases stress and induces slower, mindful breathing. All of these factors, as we saw, contribute towards improving or maintaining immunity. Different practices work on different aspects. For example, the practice of Kapal Bhati removes blockages from the sinuses, heart and lungs, while Alternate Nostril Breathing releases toxins, relieves stress and balances the body. It also increases the resistance of the respiratory tract, and allergies to dust, dirt, etc.
Similarly, specific asanas have specific benefits. Some help you relax and destress, some open up the chest and improve respiration, while some release blockages which promote blood flow and life force (prana). Certain asanas work on controlling ailments like asthma and sinus, too.
Meditation has a profound impact on our mind and body. It reduces cortisol levels and unwanted chatter in the mind, leading to lower stress levels. It increases focus, balance and calmness. The immense impact of mindfulness stays with us through the day leading to better food, lifestyle and sleep choices. Gradually, this brings about positive habits, balance and a steady state of mind, which itself improves immunity.
The Shvasa Way
At Shvasa we tailor our classes to help you achieve your goals. If low immunity is a concern, our teachers will guide you through practices specific to improving immunity. Our yoga programs are designed to work on every part of the body, as well as to bring inner peace, hormonal balance and mindfulness, helping you achieve your goals. Join a class 2-3 times a week and you’ll soon begin to experience the positive, life-changing benefits!