Cold and flu season is in full swing and, since most of us are juggling multiple projects, jobs, children and other expectations, it seems like there is never a good time to get sick.
Take steps now to provide yourself with extra support for your immune system, adrenal function and nervous system. Studies show that regularly practicing yoga and meditation has tangible positive effects on our health, such as healthy altered gene expression.
How else can you avoid illness this year? Get plenty of rest! In addition to boosting immunity, sleep provides a host of benefits, including improved memory performance, cellular regeneration and better mood. Stress has been shown to weaken the body, but can also be managed by a regular yoga and meditation practice. Additionally, some key immune-strengthening herbs are helpful in keeping illnesses at bay or shortening their presence in your life.
Kundalini Yoga Kriya: Strengthen the Immune System I
Originally Taught on October 22, 1985 - Found in the manual Physical Wisdom
1. Sitting in easy pose, bring your hands into Prayer Pose at the center of your chest and then extend your arms out to the sides. Return them to Prayer Pose and continue, stretching the armpits as much as you can when you extend the arms out to the sides. Breathe long and deep. Keep moving faster and faster, extending the arms all the way out. You are exercising your immune system and making it stronger. After 3 minutes start getting angry and feisty. Start fighting and use the motion to get all your anger out. Continue for another 8 minutes.
2. Sitting in Easy Post, interlace your fingers to lock your hands above your head with your elbows straight. Twist left and right from the base of your spine. Do Breath of Fire and move wildly. 4 minutes. This is very good for the liver.
3. Lie down on your back and make your body jump vigorously up, down, and all around. Move every part of your body including your head. Move vigorously. This is the best exercise to get rid of anger and it makes the immune system healthy. 4 minutes.
4. Turn onto your belly and lock your hands in the small of your back. Again, make your body jump vigorously up, down and all around. Move every part of you. 3.5 minutes.
5. Keeping your forehead on the floor, grab your ankles and pull up on them so that you lift your knees up from the ground. Once you are balanced with your knees suspended, hold the posture with a long, slow breath for 1.5 minutes.
6. Turn over onto your back and nap, listening to “Naad - the Blessing” by Sangeet Kaur Khalsa. After 11 minutes begin to sing along for another 4 minutes. In class, Yogi Bhajan played the gong during this meditation.
Immune System Booster Meditation - The Inner Sun
This advanced immune therapy hits at viruses and bacteria. The head must be covered, or else you can get a headache. This is a kind of tantric kriya. The immune system interacts with the central nervous system, the glands, and emotions.
We are each given the strength to encounter life and life's challenges. We have moral strength, mental strength, emotional strength, and physical strength. All these strengths are inter-connected. We block the flow of that strength when we experience feelings of anger, self-defeat, and blame. To boost the immune system, we must overcome these blocks.
This meditation stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and the right hemisphere to adjust themselves. In this process you may go through various emotions as the glands start to shift their balance. That is fine. Relax and keep going until you are through the emotional inertia. Then you will feel light, energized, and hopeful.
With gradual practice you can take the time up to 31 minutes. At that level your whole system is cleaned and rejuvenated. The immune system will have new vigor and will not be blocked by inner conflict. This type of breathing is called the “sunbreath."
Posture: Sit in Easy Pose, with a light jalandhar bandh, and with the head covered.
Mudra: Bend the left arm and raise the hand up to shoulder level. The palm faces forward. The forearm is perpendicular to the ground. Make Surya Mudra with the left hand (touch the tip of the ring finger to the tip of the thumb). The mudra of the left hand may slip during practice; keep it steady. Make a fist of the right hand, pressing the tips of the fingers into the pads at the base of the fingers; extend the index finger. With the extended index finger, gently close off the right nostril.
Focus: Concentrate at the Brow Point.
Breath: Begin a steady, powerful Breath of Fire. Emphasize the beat at the navel; the navel must move.
Mantra: Though this is done without mantra, you may want to use a mantra tape for the proper rhythm. Good recordings for the rhythm are Singh Kaur's Sat Naam Wahe Guroo, or Sada Sat Kaur's Angel's Waltz.
Time: Continue for 3 minutes. Very gradually increase the time to 5 minutes.
To End: Inhale deeply and hold the breath. As the breath is held, interlace all the fingers (beginning with the right thumb uppermost) and put the palms in front at a level just below the throat (in front of the thymus), and about 14 inches (35 cm) away from the body. Try to pull the fingers apart with all force. Resist and create a great tension. When you must, exhale. Repeat this sequence 3 more times. On the last exhale, discharge the breath by blowing through your upturned lips, with the tongue curled back on the roof of the mouth. This will seal the upper palate upward. Then relax.
Immune Boosting Herbs - Elder Berry
Elderberry syrup is a highly esteemed formula in Europe for colds, flu and upper respiratory infections. In recent years, the tendency to reach for a bottle of elderberry syrup has caught on in the United States. It has major immune-enhancing properties and is especially effective when combined with echinacea.
Every year, I make several batches of homemade Elderberry Syrup for my family. It’s great to have on hand when the first sign of a cold or flu starts to appear. Making your own is so much more cost effective than purchasing a pre-made bottle at your local health food store - and it’s just about the easiest herbal remedy you can make!
1 cup fresh or 1/2 cup dried elderberries
If you don’t have access to a place to gather elderberries on your own, I recommend purchasing dried elderberries here.
3 cups water
1 cup honey
I recommend using organic raw honey
Place the berries in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer over low heat for 30-45 minutes.
Smash the berries. Strain the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer and add 1 cup of honey, or adjust to taste. I personally find 1 cup to be a bit sweet - I start with 1/2 cup and work up from there.
Bottle the syrup and store in the refrigerator where it will keep for 2 to 3 months.
Caution: Use only blue elderberries, like the ones found here; the red ones are potentially toxic if eaten in large quantities. Never eat elderberries that haven’t been cooked first.
Standard dose is ½ tsp - 1 tsp for kids and ½ - 1 tablespoon for adults. If the flu does strike, take the normal dose every 2-3 hours instead of once a day until symptoms disappear.