Research reveals significant benefits of yoga and meditation for immune system functioning. As a bonus, yoga and meditation also leads to less sick days off work.
The research shows that as little as eight weeks of meditation helps the immune system to function effectively. This, researchers say, is likely because meditation helps people to handle the negative symptoms of various conditions. This adds to the already massive list of health benefits of meditation, and the benefits of yoga.
If, like me, the current global situation has made you wonder how strong your immune system is and what you can do to strengthen it, then you will definitely be interested in this research.
The Benefits of Yoga & Meditation for Immune System Functioning
The University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester reviewed evidence surrounding the effects of meditation on the immune system, with a particular focus on meditation’s effects on inflammation and anti-viral immune responses.
The researchers looked at prior trials that had investigated the effects of four weeks or more of yoga, meditation, tai chi, or Qigong on the immune system. There were 34 such studies, the majority of which indicated that mind-body health systems did indeed lead to improvements in the functioning of the immune system. The researchers determined that mind-body therapies like yoga and meditation improve immune system functioning by reducing markers of inflammation and influencing virus-specific immune responses.
Older research, published in 2005 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that meditations involving relaxing visual imagery helped to reduce the effects of stress on the immune system, and thereby helped a patient with recovery. [READ: Meditation For Stress Relief]
Yoga, meanwhile, has been linked with many health benefits. Recent research by the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai shows that yoga helps with breast cancer by helping to alleviate the side-effects cause by chemotherapy, including a reduction in stress and anxiety.
There is also research showing that meditation reduces sick days by decreasing illnesses like colds and flus. James Carmody [mindfulness researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester], told Reuters “I suspect this is because [people who meditate] are better able to cope with the symptoms”.
So, it seems that yoga and meditation do indeed help the immune system. And with the current global situation, I was personally very interested in seeing just exactly how we can use meditation and yoga for the immune system.
Best Meditation for Immune System (Scripts)
There has been little research comparing the effects of different kinds of meditation on the immune system. Therefore, it is very difficult to state that any one specific meditation technique is better than another one.
That said, it is generally agreed that the main reason meditation boosts the immune system is by reducing stress and anxiety. Kinda makes you wonder what effect the current global situation is having on al lour immune systems, doesn’t it?
So how do you use meditation to strengthen the immune system?
In essence, any meditation that reduces anxiety and stress will have a positive impact on the immune system.
Some meditations that have been specific shown to help with stress and anxiety are:
Yoga Poses for Immune System
Similar to meditation, we know that yoga strengthens the immune system but there is little evidence suggesting that one type of yoga is better than another, or that this or that yoga pose (asana) is particularly helpful.
Personally, I will likely continue my vinyasa practice, because I know that it definitely relieves my stress and makes me think more positively—two things that have been linked with better immune systes.
It’s generally agreed that there are two types of asanas (yoga poses) that help the immune system: Relaxing ones, and twists that target the gut.
For these reasons, you might like to focus on the following yoga poses:
- Sitting and Breathing (Sukhasana and Pranayama)
- Half Lord of the Fishes (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
- Supported Fish Pose (Matsyasana Variation)
- Forward Fold (Uttanasana)
- Legs Up the Wall (Viparita Karani)
- Sphinx Pose (Salamba Bhujangasana)
- Revolved Chair Pose (Parivrtta Utkatasana)
- Standing Backbend (Anuvittasana)
- Eagle Pose (Garudasana)
- Triangle Pose (Trikonasana)
- Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana)
How Meditation Influences the Immune System
Researchers are quick to state that they do not yet know precisely how and why meditation boosts the immune system. However, there are some generally agreed ideas on the topic:
Less stress: We know from scientific research that thoughts and feelings directly impact our immune system by influencing chemical signals sent from the brain. This is why stress and negative thoughts can make you ill. Meditation has been proven to reduce anxiety, stress, and negative thoughts. Therefore, one possible explanation for why meditation improves the immune system is because it reduces negative thoughts and feelings.
Communication between brain and immune system: Another possible explanation for why meditation boosts the immune system is because it strengthens the structures responsible for communication between the brain and the immune system. Meditation is known to improve activity in the prefrontal cortex, right anterior insula, and right hippocampus, which are the areas of the brain responsible for communication with the immune system.
Living a generally healthy lifestyle (perhaps a yoga-lifestyle) can help rebuild your immune system. Quitting smoking, quitting drinking, practicing yoga, meditating, taking steps to reduce stress and anxiety, and eating a healthy diet, can all help to rebuild your immune system.
There is no scientific evidence suggesting that any one type of yoga is best for the immune system. However, if you have a health condition it is recommended to practice gentle styles like Restorative Yoga and Iyengar Yoga. Poses that are either relaxing, or that twist the gut, can also be beneficial.
As we have seen in the article above, there is significant scientific evidence that meditation can reduce the immune system. As yet, however, scientists are not sure how this happens. It is believed to be linked to a reduction in stress and anxiety.
Meditation affects the body in many ways, including by reducing markers of inflammation and increasing communication between the brain and the immune system. It also improves digestion and other important health functions.