Modern science has come to appreciate the link between mind and body. Thus today, the therapeutic benefits of regular Yoga practice are widely accepted and Yoga is considered a holistic approach to prevent, reduce or even alleviate structural, physiological, emotional and spiritual pain, suffering or limitations. It is a time tested and effective natural immunity and memory booster which helps keep the body healthy and mind happy.
The body’s immune system has a number of essential functions, such as protection against bacteria and cancer cells. A healthy immune system can defeat invading pathogens and defends you against disease-causing microorganisms. While a healthy lifestyle such as eating healthy, exercising regularly, not smoking and drinking, getting adequate sleep, etc, can strengthen your immune system, studies show that despite your daily health choices, stress mediators can still pass through the blood-brain barrier and exert their effects on the immune system.
Today, a wide variety of lifestyle diseases are linked to mental conditions such as anxiety, stress, depression, etc, which affect one’s emotional health. In the past few years, evidence has accumulated to indicate that the blood’s immune system could, in fact, have an impact on the brain. Studies that demonstrate this link between the immune system and brain show that both brain structure and memory are linked to the activity of genes that also perform important immune regulatory functions in the blood.
Constant exposure to the stressful stimulus can also affect one’s memory (both, hippocampus-dependent memory and also striatum-dependent memory). Though your brain contains a bit of a muscle, anatomically, it isn’t. However, the gray and white matter with a cellular structure does need ‘exercise’ to grow stronger, faster and to be able to complete millions of daily tasks such as remembering, paying attention, solving problems, etc.
The ancient Yoga techniques have deciphered the connection between the mind and body effectively and it is proven that with regular practice, not just immunity, but memory and concentration also improve. It helps in numerous ways because it works at all levels.
Yoga is a form of mind-body fitness that involves a combination of muscular activity and an internally directed mindful focus on awareness of the self, the breath, and energy. Collins C. Yoga: Intuition, preventive medicine, and treatment.
As explained above, the immune system plays an important role in keeping the body healthy and fit. But emotional stress can cause an imbalance in the immune system which can further lead to other problems such as the risk of catching viral or bacterial infections more easily, and often.
Yoga practice plays a vital role in providing a gentle and natural means of supporting the immune system on a day to day basis, regardless of the number of stressors you have to deal with in your personal and professional life. Yoga practice helps cultivate awareness of mind-body-breath awareness by helping us experience it.
It helps lower your stress hormones (corticosteroids) which can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system and also affect the functioning of lungs, respiratory tract and lymphatic system, which help remove toxins from the body and supply oxygenated blood to different organs to ensure the effective functioning of the entire body.
Likewise, the brain also needs energy and nourishment every single day for better functioning. You have to eliminate negative and draining thought patterns constantly to keep the mind calm and happy. Yoga is the best form of exercise to achieve this state of harmony and balance in both body and mind.
The Yoga asanas, breathing practices, and meditation techniques have various long-term emotional and mental benefits, such as better focus, memory boost, better sleep, lower stress and anxiety levels, and an overall improvement in attention span and self-awareness. Yoga also includes practices like visualization and mantra chanting, which may further strengthen certain verbal and visual skills.
In this fast-moving world where people hardly get time to take care of themselves, here are some exercises which you can practice even at home. All you need is a little Yoga-time daily to maintain a healthy body and mind.
Some easy to do Yoga poses:
Vrksasana (Sankrit name) is a standing balancing pose which is easy to do and helps improve nerve and muscle functions and plays an important role in enhancing your immune system. Apart from that, being a balancing pose, it also helps balance your thoughts and emotions and helps calm your mind. This helps improve focus and memory.
Stand straight and take in a few breaths. Keep your focus on any fixed point in front. When ready, shift your weight to the right leg, lift and hold your left foot with your left hand and place the foot on the right inner thigh. It is important that the left knee points to the left.
You can hold namaskar mudra in front of your chest or slowly extend your arms overhead and hold namaste or stretch your fingertips up and keep hands shoulder-width apart. Repeat the same sequence for the left leg. As a beginner, you can place your foot on the ankle or knee instead of the inner thigh or even take wall support.
Seated Forward Bend
Paschimottanasana is a classic Hatha Yoga asana which gives your body a good stretch. This pose helps in relieving stress and depression by relaxing your shoulders, and it also activates your kidneys. It improves focus, concentration, and memory power of the brain, and also stimulates thinking capacity.
To start with the pose, sit with your spine straight and your legs extended forward while bringing your arms up over your head, reaching towards the ceiling. On an exhalation, begin to come forward while lengthening your spine by stretching the hand towards your toes. If you can’t reach your toes, hold on to your ankles or shins or use a yoga-strap to reach out. It is important to not curve your spine.
Imagine your belly coming to rest on your thighs. Hold the posture for 8 – 9 breaths. Practice this pose in the morning on an empty stomach to get a good stretch, and you can also try it in the evening after 3-4 hours from your last meal.
Bhujangasana is a very beneficial pose as it opens up your chest by releasing white blood cells in your body that improves the body’s immunity. This pose will leave you feeling refreshed and will also energize your body after a long day at work, especially when you sit in the same position for long hours.
Begin with lying on your stomach with your arms resting on the mat next to your chest. As you inhale, lift the head and chest off the mat by lengthening your arms; however, avoid straining the neck and shoulder muscles. Hold this position for 20 – 30 seconds and always inhale while lifting yourself up.
Shishuasana is an excellent pose that relieves congestion from the chest and builds a finer immunity defense system. It releases the stress and relaxes the mind as increased stress hormone can also affect your immune system. It also helps in opening up the shoulders, back, and neck by loosening your body after a long day at work.
To begin with, sit on your knees while spreading your knees apart and by keeping your toes together. Sit with your spine straight, take a deep breath, and on exhalation, bend forward by laying your torso down between your thighs. Allow your arms to rest on the floor alongside your torso and release your shoulders towards the floor.
Hold the posture for 12-15 breaths. You can use props like blocks to sit on or a blanket to cushion the instep of the feet.
Halasana prepares the mind and body for deep relaxation and rejuvenation. This pose has therapeutic benefits for conditions such as backache, insomnia, sinusitis and infertility. It helps stimulate thyroid glands and also helps calm the mind, reduce stress and anxiety. Fish pose or Matsyasana is usually recommended as a counter-pose after the practice of this inversion
Lie on your back with your arms beside you, palms facing down. Inhale and use your core / abdominal muscles to avoid straining your back as you lift both legs up to a 90-degree angle. Continue to breathe normally and slowly lift your hips off the mat. Use your hands to support your back and continue raising your legs up and then lower them (behind your head) until the toes touch the floor.
The back is almost perpendicular to the floor and the chest moves closer to the chin. Allow your body to relax as you hold the pose for a few slow and steady breaths. To release the posture, bring the legs back on the mat, slowly, without straining your neck and back muscles.
Padmasana is a simple pose which is considered a symbol of enlightenment and purity. It is a meditative pose that awakens the chakras in your body by inducing calmness and increasing your mental energy. It makes you emotionally balanced. which further promotes physical health and wellbeing.
Sit with your spine straight and your legs extended forward. Bend your left knee and place the ankle on your right thigh. Now lean back a little, pick the right leg up off the floor and place the right ankle on the left thigh. Remember that that closer the heels are to the abdomen, the better. You can also keep the left leg above and right leg under, whichever feels more comfortable. You can hold the hands in chin or gyan mudra and rest them on the knees.
Hold the posture for at least 3-4 minutes and focus on deep breaths while allowing your thoughts to come and go. This posture will give a good stretch to your knees and ankles, it improves body posture, and makes your hips more flexible. It makes you more aware of your surroundings and also boosts your decision-making skills.
These above simple poses can help you boost up your immune system and also will help in improving your memory by making your brain muscles active and stronger. To enhance the alignment of the poses and to get a deeper understanding of Yoga anatomy, philosophy, and Yoga as a lifestyle, you should look for Yoga teacher training in India. Yoga TTC is not just for teachers, it is for anyone who wants to understand the science and tradition of Yoga and at the same time learn correct asana practice, asana adjustments and use of yoga props from well-experienced yoga teachers.
Co-authored by Bipin Baloni, yoga teacher, India. He conducts Yoga Teacher Training in Rishikesh. He loves writing and reading books related to Yoga, Meditation, Ayurveda and Health and Himalayas.