As the days become shorter and nights get colder, we come into hot yoga season. Not only does it feel nice to be in a warm room but coming to your yoga mat is also a great way to boost your immune system during cold and flu season. A yoga practice that includes inverted poses and compression postures, will increase lymph circulation. Lymph is the clear, watery fluid that moves through the body picking up bacteria and viruses and filtering them out through the lymph nodes.
Our blood moves around our bodies as a result of our heart pumping. Lymph moves by muscular contractions. So physical exercise, such as yoga, is essential for keeping lymph flowing. The movement of lymph is also affected by gravity, so anytime you do an inversion where your head is below your heart, lymph moves into the respiratory organs, where germs often enter the body. When you come back to an upright position, gravity drains the lymph which cleanses your lymph nodes. Child’s pose (Balasana), Legs up the wall pose (Viparita Karani), and Downward-facing dog pose (Adho Mukha Svanasana) are some examples of inverted poses that will drain your lymphatic system.
Some other techniques that you can use to boost your immune system would be compression or twisting postures. Poses that involve a twist or compression hold, then release, will also drain lymph. In eagle pose (Garudasana) you create a tourniquet effect by cutting off the flow of lymph so when you release the pose, the lymph floods through the nodes to cleanse. Twisting postures like Half Lord of the Fishes pose (Ardha Matsyendrasana) can help to stimulate energy around the spine and massage the internal organs. Twists compress everything in your abdomen to wring out the old, stale blood and lymph in your organs, to then flush those areas with fresh fluids when you release.
Don’t wait until you have a stuffy nose or head cold to come to your mat. Inversions can sometimes be uncomfortable if you feel ill, adding extra pressure to a head cold. Instead, use these postures to boost your immunity throughout the cold season as a preventative measure. Take care of yourself to stay strong and keep your energy up all winter long.