Breathe

How to Boost Immunity By Practicing Yoga

Updated on 16 August 2020 • 6 minute read
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As you begin to heal the inner you, you alter your immune system. 

– Dr. Wayne Dyer, author & philosopher

Your immune cells are like little silent fighters that do so much behind the scenes and don’t get enough credit.

Everyday unbeknownst to you these cells fight various battles with outside threats and intruders in order to help keep you safe, functioning, and strong. 

You need your immune system to be firing on all cylinders in order to feel good, think clearly, and perform at your best.

So it’s important that you also do your part to support this system so it too can function at its highest. 

If you’re constantly and chronically stressed out, sleep-deprived, malnourished, or dehydrated over time your immune function will weaken. (1) 

A weakened or compromised immune system can lead to chronic infections, inflammation, autoimmune issues, and even cancer. 

Luckily, you can boost immunity when you practice yoga!

 

Yoga poses (asanas) are known to help re-balance the body’s defenses, so the next time you feel run down or like a cold is coming on think about getting on your yoga mat.

The poses are only one way to practice yoga for boosted immunity.

Yogic breathwork (pranayama) also offers multiple health benefits.

Taking daily conscious, mindful deep breaths helps to balance the nervous system, reinforces the respiratory system, lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, and can even help activate the lymphatic system, which plays a major role in immune function.  

Here are some proven and effective specific ways to practice yoga for increased immunity and health…

 

5 immune-boosting yoga asanas:

 

Yoga poses in general help promote good blood flow, and the following ones have been known to even stimulate the thymus gland, which plays a vital role in immune function… 

 

1- Bhujangasana (cobra pose)

(source: https://www.instagram.com/amyippoliti)

 

2- Matsyasana (fish pose)

(source: https://www.instagram.com/omniyogagirl)

 

3- Adho mukha svanasana (downward dog) 

(source: https://www.instagram.com/gloria_antoniani)

 

4 – Uttanasana (forward bend) 

(source: https://www.instagram.com/yogahome.pl)

 

5- Dhanurasana (bow pose/ backbend) 

(source: https://www.instagram.com/em.luker)

 

How belly breathing improves immune function:

 

When we breathe deeply and intentionally from our bellies (not our chests), we activate our diaphragm (the muscle underneath the heart and lungs that separates these from the abdominal cavity.) 

That’s why belly breathing is often also referred to as diaphragmatic breathing. 

We know we’re belly breathing when our lower belly expands outwardly when we inhale, and contracts inwardly when we exhale. 

 

Belly breathing helps to strengthen the digestive system

Since about 80% of your immune system is located in the folds of your digestive tract, this is really good news!

Engaging the diaphragm by breathing in this way causes it to massage the internal organs and glands, which in turn helps move lymph (fluid containing the immune system’s white blood cells) throughout the body to their targeted locations. (2) 

A yogic breathwork-based study published in the Public Library of Science found that controlled deep belly breathing may also strengthen the body’s defenses by changing the gene expression of certain immune cells. (3)

 

The importance of breath-holding:

According to another study by the Norwegian University of Science & Technology (NTNU) holding your breath can not only change the genetic activity of white blood cells (immune cells), but it also appears to significantly increase white blood cells to help fight illness. (4) 

NTNU drew blood samples from world-class free-divers at an international competition before and after the athletes completed a series of dives. 

“The analysis results were striking: the activity of more than 5,000 genes changed in response to the simple effort of breath-holding. 

This is almost ¼ of all genes found in human cells… 

The most striking finding was a marked increase in the white blood cell type neutrophil granulocytes. 

These blood cells are programmed for rapid response when the body perceives attacks from intruders; the neutrophils are capable of killing invading cells simply by eating them,” explains Ingrid Eftedal, NTNU research scientist. 

Given all of this, it appears that the best immune-boosting breathing combo is deep belly breathing paired with timed breath retention.   

 

The immunity-boosting power of pranayama (yogic breathwork):

Yogis have long known that the practice of voluntary breath control (consisting of intentional inhalations, retention, and exhalations) helps strengthen and purify the body so we can feel better and more energized.   

In his book, The Breath of Life: Integral Yoga Pranayama, Swami Satchidananda explains it like this: 

During pranayama, you are literally drinking in gallons and gallons of vitality and immunity. 

You supercharge the blood with extra oxygen. 

When you retain the breath, you literally inject more oxygen into the bloodstream. 

Oxygen is life, so that means you are enriching your blood with a lot of life. 

And not only do you take in more oxygen but along with the air you take in more prana. 

Every cell of your body vibrates with new life. 

As mentioned, one of the side effects of chronic stress and overwhelm is that optimal immune function becomes compromised and suppressed. 

Yogic breathing calms the stress-response and has been shown to enhance immune function. (5) 

A study carried out on 60 first-year medical school students found that regular yoga practice helps create an immunity buffer when stress heightens.

The study broke participants into two groups.  

Group A received yogic training for 35 minutes daily while Group B did not receive any stress management training at all. (6)  

Both groups showed weakened immunity due to examination stress, but Group B (the control group) displayed significantly lower immunity levels than Group A (the yoga group).    

 

A science-based yogic breathing exercise:

 

Given the effects of deep belly breathing paired with breath retention, here’s a proven and easy exercise you can practice to boost your defenses anytime.

Though you’ll definitely want to practice this exercise in the winter or when you start feeling run down, it’s even more effective if you practice just a few minutes regularly and consistently.

This is especially true if you’re dealing with a chronic immune response and/or inflammation.

Bonus points for doing it daily!

 

HOW TO:

 

  1. Sit comfortably either on a chair or on the floor.
  2. Straighten your back and neck so you are completely upright.
  3. Relax your face, jaw, and tongue.
  4. Inhale for 5 counts (belly extends outwardly, keep your chest and upper body still.)
  5. Hold your breath for 10 counts.
  6. Exhale for 7 counts (belly contracts inwardly, keep your chest and upper body still.)
  7. Hold for 5.
  8. Repeat this inhale – hold – exhale – hold pattern for 7 rounds. (Just a little over 3 minutes.)

 

Note: Practice at a rate that is comfortable for you. You should not be straining or pushing in any way. If any part of this exercise feels too much for you, lower the counts and adjust accordingly. Consult with your doctor or health care practitioner before starting a pranayama practice from scratch, especially if you’re experiencing chronic health issues.

 

 

 

 

References:

(1) https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn4116-brain-study-links-negative-emotions-and-lowered-immunity/

(2) https://www.amazon.com/Healer-Within-Traditional-Techniques-Meditation/dp/0062514776

(3) http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0062817

(4) https://blog.medisin.ntnu.no/what-the-immune-system-is-up-to-while-youre-holding-your-breath/

(5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16624497

(6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3482773/?report=printable

 

 

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A color is not just a visual concept or image – it is a wavelength, a frequency, a pattern, activity or motion.  Not only our sight, but other senses as well, are enlivened by various motions or frequencies when we smell, taste, hear and feel.

When we identify a certain aroma, for instance, or a particular taste sensation, our response is similar to the motion that occurs within our cells when we look at a certain color.

 

So, when we call our products by a color name, we are referring to the elemental qualities inherent to a particular frequency or pattern of motion — an inner motion that initiates a certain conscious state or way of seeing or moving — an we call those different states “modes of human endeavor” or “parts of ourselves”, such as thinking, reflecting, acting or praying.

 

Each color has a distinct effect on the senses which is felt at the physical, mental, and emotional level. For instance, red creates a feeling of warmth, safety, and tenderness; Blue a feeling of lightness, clarity and peace.

 

As the senses quicken in response to the qualities in each color, we simply feel more complete, and begin to notice images, patterns, thoughts, and ideas in the course of our daily lives that enrich, enlighten and bring resolution to that which we have felt before.

 

Red – For a romantic evening, to enliven the senses and turn the heart toward magical moments of affection and delight.  To move freely through life’s difficult changes.

Orange – For a party to celebrate life’s special moments.  To arouse warm, friendly feelings and bridge the space that holds us apart from others.  To cleanse away the heartache of hurtful words.

Yellow – To smooth away troublesome thoughts and mental confusion.  To pull the past out into the light of the day where new possibilities and hope appear.  To make wise decisions

Green – To prepare for a busy day or a lively evening.  It folds into a place of rest, energizes tired muscles, clears the mind, and revives the spirit.  To move freely from day to day without worry or resistance.

Blue – For moments of discouragement or trial.  Moves through the shadows within, lighting the heart with resolution, tranquility, and inner strength.  To meet the day without regret or unworthy feelings.

Indigo – For sound peaceful sleep.  Leaves behind those worrisome daily cares and journeys to distant place where visions are found and dreams are remembered.  To alleviate restless, sleepless nights.

Violet – To move above the simple solutions of life.  For artistic endeavors.  Rise to a place where the intuitive sense of rightness is clear.  To elevate the spiritual content of life.

 

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LIFE ENRICHMENT

 

Your physical, mental and spiritual well-being is the focus while your here at Valley. With the understanding that those three aspects of life are connected it is our goal to provide a full-spectrum of experiences to reconnect and balance these aspects. You can determine and experience the best exercise for your body followed by spa treatments to relax and refresh you. Classes, book discussions, and life coaching enlighten your mind and provide strategies to enhance your life. Finally, you can hear the whisper and guidance of your spirit in meditation, yoga, and tai chi classes or the beautiful gardens and spaces of Valley and the red rocks of our desert cliffs.

 

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Life Coaching at Valley

 

Is it time to change, follow a truer path, or balance your life? Our life coach can provide the guidance and support for the process. Classes on recreating your life, balance, and making changes will get you started. Our unique book selection and discussions provide added resources. Most importantly, you can have personal life coaching sessions while here and continue them by phone after you return home.

 

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It’s not about change, it’s about growth

 

If you or someone you love is struggling with emotional or mental issues, TurningLeaf can provide a full range of mental health services including: substance abuse, family counseling, grief management, domestic violence, life coaching, and much more. Our goal is to strengthen individuals, couples, and families with customized out patient wellness programs.

 

Meet the TurningLeaf Staff

TurningLeaf draws upon the skill, experience, and education of it’s exceptional staff, including psychologists, substance abuse counselors, emotional growth and life coaching experts. Our team also includes domestic violence and anger management counselors, ADD and ADHD specialists, and teen and family practitioners.

 

Richard Moody PH.D

Masters Degree in Counseling and Physiological Psychology, completed doctorate in Clinical Psychology with over 40 years of experience as a mental health professional.

 

Dean Nixon

17 years of experience working with both adults and teens in the treatment industry. Facilitator for TurningLeaf’s Emotional Growth Seminars.

 

Kwinten Kemp, L.P.C.

Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in the treatment of adults and adolescents.

 

Clint Dalley, C.P.C.I.

Certified in Domestic Violence and specialist in ADD and ADHD.

 

Sue Judd, M.S.S., L.S.A.C

Licensed Substance Abuse Counselor specializing in addictions. Trained in dual diagnosis and mood disorders. Sue holds a Masters degree in Social Sciences and is also a Licensed Substance Abuse Counselor with over 20 years of experience.

 

Clifford K. Tapusoa, Senior Dept. Director

Has worked in  Human Services for 14 years with experience in Residential treatment. He has served in various capacities from Direct Care Staff to Program Director.

 

Krista Bart, L.C.S.W.

Clinical Social Worker Certified in Domestic Violence and Anger Management.

 

Services

All services are customized to fit your individual needs. Initially, guests, will meet with one of TurningLeafs’ professional staff to identify problems and recommend the appropriate course of therapy. Below is a partial list of treatment options.

 

Anger and Emotional Management

Raise awareness of negative emotions and patterns of interacting and reacting to them and with others.  Utilize tools on recognizing what works, what does not, and alternative tools to use to manage anger and other “negative” emotions.  Discuss the violence cycle, the rights in a relationship, conflict management, and tools to be more successful in relationships.

 

Parenting

Provides structure, simplicity and confidence in how to parent. Children come with a crucial set of physical and emotional needs that must be met. This service will help you create your personal “Thriving as a Parent 101” manual.

 

Teen Treatment Programs

Our goal in providing outpatient adolescent care is to promote family wellness through teaching effective communication, parental skills, obedience, family cohesion, and love-based interactions.  This is also achieved by building family strength upon key values such as honesty, forgiveness, obedience, love, openness and communication.  In this way, we help to preserve and strengthen the integrity of the family unit.

 

Healthy Relationships

This class will teach you methods that will be helpful with mood problems such as depression, anxiety, anger, panic, jealousy, guilt and shame. It will also give you strategies to help you solve relationship problems, handle stress better, improve your self-esteem, and become less fearful and more confident.

 

Grief Counseling

The loss of a loved one or relationship is one of the greatest emotional challenges anyone can confront. Our staff can help individuals and families deal with these challenges and provide the comfort and hope for a return to joy.

 

Body Image Development

Self esteem issues associated with body image can be devastating to teens and adults alike. Body Image Development provides guests with proper skills and strategies to create a healthy love of self.

 

Substance Abuse Recovery and Life Skills

The purpose of these sessions are  to help the substance abuser develop and maintain his or her own personal program of recovery. Designed specifically to give the participant the necessary tools to help deal with individualized issues in the recovery process.

 

Life Coaching

With your life coach, you will learn how to integrate a purpose into your life, better understand the process of communication, and also understand the different roles you play in your life. Learning these skills and applying them to your life is an essential element of personal success and development. Your life coach will help you keep your life simple, so you can focus on reaching your goals.

 

 

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Our services include body work, energetics, and individual training sessions, with a wide variety of disciplines, techniques and expertise.

 

The award-winning team of therapists are highly dedicated professionals with years of advanced therapeutic training and certification. Some have served our clients for over 20 years and are known for their healing touch and genuine concern for the welfare of each guest.

 

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Though the range of holistic therapeutic modalities is vast and rather complex to define, we have divided them into general categories, recognizing that while each is localized to some extent, the beneficial properties act on human well being at many levels.

 

Signature Treatments

 

Our renowned Signature Treatments are designed here and not found elsewhere. They not only act to cleanse toxin overload which prevents our natural systems from absorbing nutrients, but reduce deteriorating conditions that accompany the aging process, leaving the skin (our largest eliminative organ) smooth, hydrated, receptive, and porous. Allowing the elimination of excess waste fluids and gases to occur.

 

Massage

 

We offer both deep tissue and soft touch, including sports massage, shiatsu, neuromuscular, gliding stones, Thai, reflexology, and many more.

 

Energetics, Frequencies And “The Vibes Of Life”

 

A healing mode designed to bring balance and harmony. Includes Cranial-sacral, Reiki, and chakra clearing.

 

Wisdom Of The Ancients

 

Medicine today, whether holistic or conventional, has a rich heritage from the world’s civilizations and cultures. These innovative sessions include age-old cultural healing techniques and tribal concepts with a modern approach.

 

For The Parts That Show

 

We have developed an enlivening process which not only acts to beautify the skin, our precious outer coat, but allows the body’s natural system to absorb nutrients, release toxic waste and strengthen cellulose fibers for increased elasticity and resilience.

 

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Personal training sessions from our staff of professional counselors.

 

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