At Home we believe that preventative medicine is the way to go: if you can reduce your risk of disease, then you won't have to deal with treating yourself for a bunch of disease! And Bikram Yoga is some serious preventative medicine. (Of course this amazing system we teach is also highly effective for healing injuries or chronic pain, but that’s another blog post.)
Today I want to talk about Bikram Yoga and the immune system. Because honestly, our most valuable personal asset in fighting the Coronavirus (or any virus) is: the human immune system.
Here are 5 ways your Bikram Yoga practice supports your immune system function:
1. Improved stress response
When a person is stressed out, it inhibits their body’s ability to fight stuff off. (That’s why your stressball neighbor is always getting sick.) And it’s not the stressors that are the problem- it’s the body’s stress response that makes an impact!
For one thing, cortisol is one of the main hormones released as part of the stress response. Evolution-wise, cortisol’s job is to give you a burst of energy in order to fight off an immediate threat. If there is actually an immediate threat (like a tiger, rawrr) that’s very helpful.
But if the stressor is something constant, like pressure from your job or the collection agency that keeps on calling, your cortisol levels remain elevated, which increases inflammation.
Being continually stressed out also decreases the body’s lymphocytes. Those are the white blood cells whose job is to fight off infection. The fewer lymphocytes you’re working with, the more at risk you are for viruses.
Good news is - while it’s unlikely you’ll ever remove all stressors from your life (plus that would be kind of boring) - you have a ton of control when it comes to how you perceive those stressors and therefore how your body responds to them.
Bikram Yoga helps improve your stress response by making sure you regularly practice tools for coping with stress (such as calm breathing through the nose) in a stressful environment (standing on one leg in your underwear in a heated room, looking at yourself in your mirror.) And the more you practice, the better you get.
2. Gets you moving
Regular moderate intensity exercise (ahem, like Bikram Yoga, 2-5 times a week!) is associated with a reduced risk of common infections like upper respiratory tract infections (the common cold.)
3. Keeps ya hydrated
There really are few experiences that will make you appreciate water more than a nice hot Bikram Yoga class. Which is awesome, because your body needs water for all its systems to do their thing! Did you know that water makes up about 80% of your blood? Without sufficient water, your kidneys can not adequately flush toxins, waste, and bacteria from the body. Water also makes up 95% of lymphatic fluid (full of those helpful lymphocytes who fight off “invaders” like viruses!
4. Makes you crave the good food
Maybe it’s just me, but after a juicy class I want salad and a smoothie way more than I want deep fried fish sticks. Proper nutrition (including a variety of fruits and vegetables) is key for good immune function. Both overnourished (obese) and undernourished people tend to get sick more often than those who eat a balanced diet.
When you sweat, your skin produces natural antibiotics such as dermcidin. These antibiotics are more effective in the long term than lab-made ones, because germs are not capable of quickly developing resistance to them. Dermcidin is capable of fighting off both bacteria and fungi, and has been shown to triumph over dangerous bugs like tuberculosis and staphylococcus- which are difficult to treat because they are resistant to conventional antibiotics.
So maybe we should be slathering ourselves in sweat, instead of Purell?
The Coronavirus situation is changing daily, and it's a good idea to stay updated. (Be careful where you get your news though!)
Here is a comparison between the current Coronavirus and the flu, to help you put things into perspective.
In the meantime, something we definitely know about this virus, as well as the flu and the common cold is that having a strong and healthy immune system can only help you!
So for protection: wash your hands a lot, and practice using your "Germ Pocket."
To maintain a robust immune system, keep doing your Bikram Yoga practice. Click the link below to book your next class.
(And if you haven't started yet, grab your intro pass here!)
Studio leader, yoga-doer and life-lover, Kay D.