5 Mindful Tips to Beat Stress and Boost Your Immune System
Yoga Journal|November - December 2020
Feeling strong and often uncomfortable emotions during challenging times is completely natural. And while it may be tempting to suppress anger, sadness, grief, and frustration, mental health experts say that doing so can physically stress your body and negatively impact your immunity and well-being.
By Ann Swanson

When your body is under significant physical or emotional pressure, it has to work harder to find and maintain balance. Fortunately, yoga can help us regain equilibrium during stressful seasons and transforms distress into eustress, known as beneficial stress that helps build resilience. So try to embrace feeling unsettled, and rely on your practice to help you navigate these difficult emotions.

YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM AT WORK

Your immune system illustrates your body’s intrinsic ability to heal. It fights foreign invaders by sending an army of white blood cells through the bloodstream and a fluid called lymph through your lymphatic system. If you’ve ever noticed swelling on your neck when you’re feeling unwell, that’s your lymphatic system in action. Lymph nodes become sensitive and swell in response to illness, stress, or infection; this is a sign that your lymphatic system is working to flush out infection-causing bacteria, viruses, dead or diseased cells, and other antigens—substances that trigger an immune response. Asana and pranayama aid this filtering process by encouraging flow and movement of lymph.

BREAKING THE STRESS CYCLE

Not all stress is bad. Positive challenges, such as getting a promotion or pursuing a new hobby, help you grow and build resilience in the process.

But when you feel threatened, your fear center is activated, triggering anxiety and the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and norepinephrine, which tax vital organs, activate the fight-or-flight response, and prepare you to react. When your body is regularly in this state, you can experience elevated blood pressure, poor digestion, and lowered immunity. Fortunately, research suggests that you can consciously regulate your stress response, reduce inflammation, and possibly enhance immunity with yoga.

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