There’s a pose for that…

Your Immune System.

Are there really yoga poses that can help boost my immunity? Yes, indeed. Iyengar says, “The immune system is the defense mechanism of the body and protects us from disease. Its main agent is the blood, a fluid consisting of plasma and red and white corpuscles or blood cells. It is the white corpuscles that inhibit the invasion of the bloodstream microorganisms. There are two types of immunity: natural and acquired. Yoga strengthens both, and regular practice of the recommended asanas can help to counter the disorders that affect them.”

A practice that includes supported or inverted poses increases the 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 key 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.

The research I have found recommends resting your head on a support in each pose to allow your neck, throat, and tongue to relax fully, thereby encouraging the lymph to flow freely through the nose and throat. Hold each pose for two to five minutes, breathing deeply from your diaphragm for the entire time.

Don’t wait until the sniffles start up to attempt this practice! By that time inversions could agitate both body and mind. Instead, use this sequence to build up your immunity throughout the winter and keep common bugs away!

The sequence… I used poses from the Iyengar method (Path to Holistic Health) along with other poses to help drain the lymph system. Props are used in the Iyengar method to truly relax into the pose and get the full benefits, so use your props if you have them!

  • Setubandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose)
  • Supta Baddhakonasana (reclining fixed angle pose aka. reclining butterfly)
  • Supta Virasana (reclining hero pose)
  • Setubandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose) again.
  • Adhomukha Svanasana (downward-facing dog stretch)
  • Salamba Sirsasana (headstand)
  • Viparita Dandasana (inverted staff pose)… I did not have a chair for a prop so here is me in the full expression of the pose. And Iyengar’s model (from the book) in the relaxing modification.
  • Salamba Sarvangasana (shoulderstand)
  • Halasana (plough pose)
  • Setubandha Sarvangasana (bridge pose) again.
  • Viparita Karani (inverted pose aka. legs up the wall pose)
  • Savasana (corpse pose)… Supported savasana as shown by the model in the book.
  • Ujjayi Pranayama (conquest of energy aka. ujjayi breath)… To be done in savasana (as shown above).
  • Viloma 2 Pranayama (interrupted breathing cycle aka. breath holds)… To be done in savasana (as shown above).

Other holistic ways to boost your immune system… A healthy diet and some natural remedies should do the trick!

Reference: Yoga the Path to Holistic Health (BKS Iyengar), Yoga Journal 2011.

Fight the Winter Blues {part 2}…

Part 2… because there are so many reasons for holistic health in the winter months! This is a continuation of my previous post: Fight the Winter Blues…

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8. Neti Pot

Benefits: The Neti Pot (nasal irrigation) is a natural way to clear your nasal passages of dust, pollen, and other irritants. The gentle saline solution thins the mucus in your nasal passages allowing it to naturally drain from your nose. (Last year when I had all the sinus problems there were only 2 times that I felt relief… when I was in a hot shower and when I was using the Neti Pot!) Don’t wait until you get a stuffy nose! The Neti Pot can be used year round as wellness maintenance.

How to: Follow instructions on the package. Add distilled water to your Neti Pot and add the saline solution. (Do not use tap water and do not use table salt as your saline solution!) Bring the Neti Pot to one nostril and tilt your head. Keep your mouth open and let the water drain out of the other nostril. Repeat with the other nostril. *If you are extremely stuffy you will find that the water will not run out of the other nostril. Ayruvedic doctors would probably slap me on the hand, but I use a little force to help it through by using this Neti Pot when I’m extremely stuffy. Regular Neti Pots rely solely on gravity to push the solution through, with this one you squeeze the bottle giving it a little extra push.

Where to buy: Can be found in the Pharmacy/Wellness section of your local grocery store. I get mine at Publix.

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9. Sleep with a humidifier

Benefits: Have you ever wondered why there are certain illnesses that go along with winter? Winter is the cold and flu season because of the change in weather. Germs and viruses cannot live long (outside the body) in a humid climate, so when the weather changes and the air is far less humid, you have a greater chance of getting sick. Fight this by using a humidifier at home. Sleeping with a humidifier will put moisture back into the air soothing your dry skin, stuffy nose, and helping to kill germs and viruses that you’ve brought home with you. (This information makes me want to put a humidifier in my preschool classroom!)

Where to buy: Can be found at any store with a Wellness section (pharmacies, grocery stores, etc.)

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10. Nasya Oil (Eucalyptus oil, also seen below in Herbs)

Benefits: Main ingredient: Eucalyptus oil.  In the winter your nasal passages are dry out and it becomes even worse when you blow your nose constantly. Nasya oil lubricates nasal passages, helps decongest the sinuses, and even promotes mental clarity. Nasya oil is great for head colds.

How to: Follow the directions on the bottle. Hold you head back and drop 1-3 drops into each nostril and sniff lightly. If you don’t want to drop it directly into your nose you can add a few drops to a tissue and hold it up to your nose and breathe deeply.

Where to buy: Check your local health food store (such as Whole Foods or Golden Temple). If you can’t find it in the store you can order online via Banyan Botanicals.

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11. Herbs (Echinacea, Elderberry, Goldenseal, Elderflower, Ginger, Slippery Elm, Thyme, Astragalus, Eucalyptus, Eleuthero, Mullein, Tulsi, Yin Chiao, Sage, & Licorice.)

Benefits: Herbs can ease coughs, congestion and sore throats, and some may help prevent illness all together. The naturally occurring qualities in herbs have been used for centuries to prevent illness.

How to: View the sites below (listed under “other awesome info”) for a “how to” on each herb. Yes, herbs are time consuming. But remember, you can also drink herbal teas to get these herbal benefits! I love the Yogi Tea brand.

Where to buy: Try to find a local herbal vendor in your area. Also, check out the natural/health food stores in your area. If you cannot find these herbs locally you can order online from these sites: Jean’s Greens &/or Mountain Rose Herbs.

Other awesome info: Visit this site to see how to make your own Tincture: Make your own winter remedies. And visit this site to see each herb, it’s benefits, and how to consume: 15 Natural Remedies for the Winter Season.

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Happy & healthy winter (once again!)

Fight the Winter blues…

Ahhh, flu season. How I did not miss you.

I love this time of year… wonderful crisp weather, fall colors, fall fashions, football, and the feel-good family holidays right around the corner. What I don’t love? The fact that it’s also “cold and flu” season, not to mention that dreadful daylight savings that makes the days crazy short.

Since I was sick pretty much all of last Winter (first year teaching school) I started researching natural remedies. These remedies should be paired washing your hands (a lot), lots of Vitamin D (get out in the sunshine, even though it’s cold!), exercise, and a healthy diet (then you’ve earned a few holiday treats!). You’ll notice that a lot of the immune system boosters I have listed also aid in healthy digestion. This is because your immune system can’t be healthy without a healthy digestive system! Poor overall digestive system health is also associated with illnesses in other parts of the body, including immune system issues. (Surprisingly, your digestive system contains 70% of your body’s immune system… that’s just one clue to the importance it has on your overall health!) We support a healthy digestive system with probiotics (good bacteria) and a healthy diet. Read more about the importance of digestive health here.

Immune system boosters… Natural remedies to boost your immunity!
Benefits: This is an old Indian Ayurvedic remedy. The mixture is primarily made of amla (goose egg) which is one of the richest sources of Vitamin C. It helps to boost the immune system while also promoting mental clarity & healthy metabolism.
Where to buy: You can look at your local Indian Grocer or Natural Foods Store but I had no luck. I order from these websites: The Dabur brand is more spicy, Banyan Botanicals is less spicy.
How to: Take one tablespoon followed by a glass of milk or soy milk (or you can mix it into your milk). It can also be spread onto crackers or bread. This is definitely an acquired taste, but it’s so good for you!
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Benefits: This supplement contains a powerful combination of herbs, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals not found in everyday multivitamins. I take this when I start feeling “the crud” coming on and it knocks it right out!
Where to buy: Can be found at any vitamin/supplement store. I get mine at Golden Temple.
How to: Follow instructions on the bottle. You can take it when you start to feel sick, or every day as wellness-maintenance.
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Benefits: Recent studies have proven that Apple Cider Vinegar can help lower cholesterol, kill cancer cells, aid in weight-loss, and lower blood pressure. This heart-healthy remedy can also help to reduce sinus infections and sore throat, encourage the growth of healthy bacteria in your body, and promote healthy digestion.
Where to buy: Can be found at any grocery store in the condiment section and/or in the health supplement section. I get mine in the Publix Greenwise section.
How to: Make sure you purchase raw & unfiltered. Follow instructions on bottle: Mix 1-2 tbsp. with 8 oz. of water. Add a tbsp. of organic honey to taste (if desired).
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4.  Water with lemon first thing in the morning (I drink mine year round!)
Benefits: Lemons are acidic foods that, once metabolized, become alkaline. Alkalies help the body maintain a healthy pH level. A body with a healthy pH level is better equipped to fight sickness.
Other awesome info: This book, Crazy Sexy Diet is all about foods that balance the body’s pH level and how it can work miracles, even cure cancer! See the other books, Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips & Crazy Sexy Cancer Survivor by Kris Carr.
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Benefits: A body rich in Vitamin C protects against immune system deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, prenatal health problems, eye disease, and even skin wrinkling. Naturally occurring Vitamin C can be found in many fruits and vegetables. (Click here for a vitamin chart of fruits and veggies)
Where to buy: Can be found at any grocery store.
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6.  Green smoothies (I just started, but I’m going to drink mine year round!)
Benefits: This drink is packed full of antioxidants that have been proven to fight cancer and heart disease. It promotes healthy digestion and vision, boosts your immune system, is great for weight-loss, and will leave your hair, skin & nails radiant!
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7.  Kombucha  
Benefits: Kombucha is a fermented tea that is packed full of naturally-occurring probiotics. Probiotics help to regulate your digestive system & strengthen the immune system.
Where to buy: Can be found at any natural grocery. I get mine at Organic Harvest.
Other awesome info: View Laraine Dave’s story of cancer and how kombucha helped!
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Have a happy & healthy winter!
ps. Want more? There’s more at Fight the Winter Blues {part 2}…