I returned from a wonderful week teaching at Sanctuary Retreat in Mission beach, North Queensland to find my family coughing, sniffling and low in energy; yep they all had a head cold. Determined to not be taken down, I put together a program of positive attitude, lots of rest (challenging for me!) Zinc, vitamin C, echinacea and a yoga sequence that boosts the immune system. I am feeling really good! Sure, my throat was a little sore for a few days, and my hankie had a good workout, but it hasn’t developed into anything nasty.
Here is a little of what my students are practising this week; this sequence will also help the functioning of the lympathic system, which supports our immune response. A practice that includes supported and inverted postures, increases circulation of lymph—a clear, watery fluid that moves through the body picking up bacteria and viruses and filtering them out via the lymph nodes.
Unlike blood, which moves as a result of the heart pumping, lymph moves by muscular contractions. Physical exercise, such as yoga, is great for keeping lymph flowing. The movement of lymph is also affected by gravity, so anytime your head is below your heart—for example, in Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend) and Sarvangasana (Shoulderstand)—lymph moves into the respiratory organs, where germs often enter the body. When you return to an upright position, gravity drains the lymph, sending it through your lymph nodes for cleansing.
It is beneficial also to allow your neck, throat, and tongue to relax fully, thereby encouraging the lymph to flow freely through the nose and throat.
Thymus reset –
- Make a fist and place your pinky finger side on your breastbone, just below the notch between the collarbones.
- Take a deep breath, and as you slowly let it out, firmly pound on this spot 9 times or so.
- Repeat 1-3 times, until you feel more balanced and calm.
This is like flipping a breaker off and on again and is said to balance the thymus and the central channel of healing prana (energy) it represents.
Uttanasana (standing forward bend)
Practise with soft knees, weight slightly forward without crunching the toes; head, neck, throat and tongue all soft and arms resting back within the shoulders.
Adho Mukha svanasana (downward facing dog)
This is a beautiful posture to explore balance between the weight and work on the shoulders and on the pelvis. There should be a balance too, between ease and effort, shoulders moving down the back away from the ears, with the lower ribs hugging into the body to avoid collapsing into the lower back. I like to think of my head and heart moving forwards and hips and shoulders moving back. Maintain a softness in the elbows and knees.
Try this pose, lifting one leg, bend at the knee and slowly cirle into the hip. Straighten, release then rest in child’s pose (see below) using bhramari breath (humming) for 5 rounds.
Repeat with the opposite leg, then explore a second round of bhramari in child’s pose.
Or this variation, add a twist……
Reach back with right hand to left ankle. Stay for a few breaths, then switch to the opposite side. Maintain level hips so the twist occurs at the waist.
Balasana (child’s pose)
Bring hips back towards the heels with your head resting comfortably on the floor; arms either gently extended forward or resting back beside you. If needed, you can support the head with your hands.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana (supported)
Lie with support (bolster, blankets) under the spine, with shoulder blades resting on the floor. A gentle inversion that opens the chest, stimulates the throat and calms the busy mind.
A lovely way to finish your yoga practice.