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Six yoga poses to BOOST immunity

Last updated on: October 31, 2011 16:41 IST

Six yoga poses to BOOST immunity

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Shameem Akhtar

Shameem Akthar, yogacharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center, shows you five yogic practices to protect you from infections.

The immune gland thymus is strongest and largest in a child. By puberty it begins to atrophy. Even before this natural degeneration, most of humanity is beset with common major immune disorders. These include auto-immune diseases where the immune system in a state of hyper vigilance attacks the body it is meant to protect; immune deficiency where the system fails to protect the body under emergency.

Interestingly, recent research has found the immune gland may be revived and stimulated back to health. Yoga has been doing it for eons through its asanas (poses) and pranayama (breathing practices). Though the precise mechanism may be difficult to explain, most poses or practices that stimulate the chest region have found to help control disorders related to this highly sensitive system in our body. It could be that these poses stimulate the acupressure points that stimulate the gland. Research on meditation was the first to prove that focusing practices can boost the production of immune cells within the body.

The chest opening poses like the dhanurasana (bow), bhugangasana (cobra), shalabhasana (locust), sarpasana (snake pose) are some simple yogic immunity boosters. Pranayama practices like kapalabhati (skull-cleanser), bhastrika (bellows breathing) are also powerful immunity boosters.

For more of Shameem's yoga writings visit http://jaisivananda.blogspot.com. Shameem's second book Yoga in the workplace, with photographs by ace photographer Fawzan Husain, is now available at online shops and bookshops across the country. It is also available as e-book, with Kindle, Amazon.

Disclaimer: This column just shares the columnist's passion for yoga which is ideally learned under the guidance of an expert.

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Image: A collage of yoga poses to boost immunity
Photographs: Shameem Akhtar
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Six yoga poses to BOOST immunity

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Dhanurasana (Bow pose, advanced version)

Lie on your stomach. Bend legs at the knees. Cross ankles. Reach hands behind to grasp either of the crossed ankles, as shown. Inhale, lifting chest and thighs off the ground. Look up, the intensify the stretch. Hold for a few seconds initially, with normal breathing.

After regular practice over weeks, you may extend the duration in the final pose. Or, you may hold for a shorter duration, three times.
 
Benefits: Boost immunity, and overall health since it is also a complete body workout. Tones hands and legs. Boosts stamina.

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Image: Dhanurasana (Bow pose, advanced version)
Photographs: Shameem Akhtar
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Six yoga poses to BOOST immunity

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Marjariasana (Cat stretch, advanced)

Kneel on your fours, as shown. Inhale to lift the left leg up, as shown, with it bent at the knee. Reach right hand to hold the left ankle (or foot or toes, as shown). Lift the leg higher, drawing the ankle away.

Lift the head up, to look at the ceiling. Hold for as long as is comfortable, breathing normally throughout. Release leg. Repeat for the other side.

Points to note: This calls for ability to balance. So attempt it only after trying other advanced cat stretches. Do  not lift the head until balance has been achieved.
 
Benefits: Boosts immunity, stamina, limbs' tone.

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Image: Marjariasana (Cat stretch, advanced)
Photographs: Shameem Akhtar
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Six yoga poses to BOOST immunity

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Poorna bhujangasana (Full cobra)

Lie on your stomach. Palms should be placed under either shoulder. Spread out legs, bending them at the knees. Pushing from the wrists, push up chest, inhaling deeply.

Simultaneously reach the feet towards the head. Continue normal breathing as you finetune the pose. You may walk your hands backwards, but kept the elbows close to the body. You may also lift the stomach off the mat. Hold for as long as is comfortable.

Release to rest on your stomach, in the crocodile pose (makarasana), which has been explained in this section earlier.
 
Points to note: If learnt in one's youth,this pose may be more deeply reached, where the feet touch the head. For those who learn it after-30s the pose is limited. However, touching the feet to the head only showcases flexibility,

The other benefits of the pose remain the same, even if the feet do not reach the head. Also, the back of the legs may develop a cramp for beginners. So it is best attempted after sufficient warm-up and after more advanced cobra variations have been tried.
 
Benefits: Same as for the bow pose.

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Image: Poorna bhujangasana (Full cobra)
Photographs: Shameem Akhtar
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Salabhasana (Locust, advanced variation)

Lie on your stomach. Reach your hands behind, interlocking them as shown. Spread the legs out a bit. Inhale, raise chest off the ground, simultaneously lifting the legs off the ground, and the hands off the back. Hold for as long as is comfortable.

Remember to breathe normally throughout. Release, to rest. Repeat a few times, learning to extend duration over weeks, through regular practice.
 
Benefits: Same as the bow. Tones the entire spine, preventing and healing backache.

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Image: Salabhasana (Locust, advanced variation)
Photographs: Shameem Akhtar
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Salabhasana (Locust, advanced leg lift)

Lie on your stomach. Palms should be place under either shoulder as shown. Inhale deeply, lifting the right leg straight  up.

Simultaneously bend the left leg at the knee, placing the left sole under the right thigh. Hold for as long as is possible, breathing normally. Release to  repeat for the other side.

Avoid: If having lower back problem.

Points to note: Avoid tilting to one side, as is common.
 
Benefits: The pressure at the chest boosts immunity. Legs become supple and strong. Hips are toned.


Image: Salabhasana (Locust, advanced leg lift)
Photographs: Shameem Akhtar
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