By Ani Weinstein (y4c teacher)
One way that yoga supports the immune system is by reducing stress and creating a nervous system response toward relaxation. It has become widely accepted that heightened levels of stress directly and negatively impact immunity. According to Harvard Health Publications of Harvard Medical School, “experimentally created ‘stressful’ situations delayed the production of antibodies in mice infected with influenza virus and suppressed the activity of T cells in animals inoculated with herpes simplex virus.” Another Harvard study showed that the stress of isolation can also suppress immune function. Infant monkeys separated from their mothers, especially if they are caged alone rather than in groups, generate fewer lymphocytes in response to antigens, and fewer antibodies in response to viruses.
Stress is a natural response to a cancer diagnosis, and to the subsequent, often rigorous, treatments. Add this to the regular stress of everyday life, and it becomes an issue that absolutely must be addressed in order to support a resilient body and mind with a strong immune system. Every y4c class provides specific techniques and tools to help reduce stress, both on and off the yoga mat
The y4c Prescription:
1. Restorative yoga poses support relaxation:
- Supported Supta Baddha Konasana
- Legs Up the Wall
2. Simple breath awareness techniques create a relaxation response:
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet to the floor. Place one hand on your belly and one hand on your chest. Notice the natural movement of your breath under your two hands. Begin to observe the very end of your exhales. If you can do so without creating stress or tension, subtly lengthen your exhales and find an easy, relaxed pause at the end of each exhalation.
- Sit in a comfortable position, such as in a chair or on the floor. Place your palms face-up on your thighs. Begin to notice your breathing. As you feel yourself exhaling, make gentle fists with your hands. As you inhale, open your palms wide. Continue opening and closing your palms in time with your breath. Let the rate of your breath guide the movement of your hands, not the other way around.
3. Group yoga classes offer community and social time, which help in combatting loneliness or a sense of isolation.