Yoga during a Pandemic
Yoga and the immune system
Let’s take a break from breathing (not literally of course!) and instead dip our toes into the large and complex world of the body’s immune system – something that is of vital importance in the context of a pandemic.
Something that we often don’t think of in terms of our immune system is the body’s connective tissues, the fascia. The connective tissue wraps itself around the skeletal structure, organs and muscles. In itself it provides structure, it helps to coordinate movement, and it also has a role in communication and the immune system. It has, in fact, been called the ‘home’ of the immune system. This is where the cells involved in first-line defence travel to the site of infection, where they can kill off intruders and reduce inflammation.
To be able to do their job well, the connective tissues should be well hydrated, so that they can slide, stretch and allow the movement of the immune cells from one place to another. When we lead a sedentary lifestyle, we can develop adhesions, restrictions and distortions in these tissues, preventing the immune cells from being able to act and react to keep the body healthy.
One way we can work directly on our connective tissue is by practising Yin Yoga. (Other ways are to stay hydrated, to eat well and to have a massage regularly.) Yin yoga has been developed specifically to stress the fascia and skeletal structure, and studies have shown considerable benefits. For example, in her article The Science of Stretchby Helen Langevin (The Scientist, 2013) the author wrote that she had discovered that a whole-body stretch held for ten minutes twice a day resulted in a significant reduction in inflammation.
Yin yoga involves targeting different parts of the body by holding positions for several minutes at a time, using props as appropriate. It is also a wonderful exercise in mindfulness, as the body comes to a state of stillness.
In addition to my other classes I will be starting a beginner’s Yin Yoga class once a week at Mas Pallagourdi in Ceret, when the COVID-19 restrictions lift. Please contact me for more details.