The immune system is a natural defence system our body possesses against any bacteria, virus, parasite, fungi and any other environmental toxins which have a potential to make us ill. The environment is full of these pathogenic invaders. Whenever our immune system is weak, these invaders try to overpower the defence system of our body.
According to a renowned American immunologist, the complex immune system has a mechanism by which it performs the enormous task of identifying, isolating and killing invading organisms. It has been seen in the Covid-19 pandemic that the communities within the affected population with a compromised immunity are at high risk for developing the infection and also have a higher mortality. Immunity is a paramount factor in the prevention of any infection. Scientific studies have shown that our immune system is built over time, not born. The development, maintenance and the optimal functioning of our immune system is dependent on our daily habits, nutrition and environment. Poor nutrition, sedentary life, lack of sleep and stress all lead to a weakened immune system which increases our vulnerability to any sickness. Health, as defined by the World Health Organisation (WHO), is “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Yoga is a physical, mental and spiritual practice which can be done to maintain good health.
It is a universal law of nature that everyone wants to seek pleasure and get rid of pain. It applies not only to humans but on animals as well. Yoga could be one of the means to achieve it. The United Nations General Assembly adopted an India led resolution declaring June 21 as international day of Yoga. Pranayama is the formal practice of controlling the breath, which is the source of our prana or vital life force. Pranayama is an excellent breathing exercise for good health. It is the perfect breathing exercise which increases the positive energy level in the body and removes toxins.
A research published in the Journal of Behavioural Medicine suggests that Yoga can be helpful way to boost our immune system and decrease inflammation in the body. Yoga is one of the most effective and time-tested natural immunity boosters that can lead to a healthy, sickness-free body. It lowers stress hormones and strengthens the nervous system while also stimulating the lymphatic system, which removes toxins from the body. Yoga calms the mind and can contribute to deeper, regulated sleep, which is crucial for wellness; sleep is one of the most important factors in healing and maintaining a healthy immune system.
It is said if there is birth, there is development, disease, degeneration and death. Ageing is an inherent phenomenon. One of the most important ways we can strengthen our internal defence mechanism and longevity is by boosting our immune system. The less efficient our immune system is the more prone we are to infection, disease and degeneration. We need to create an ageless immune system by boosting our immune system continuously.
There are various natural steps that have been shown to boost our immune system and therefore our longevity. In fact, building our immune system is the frontline of the Revolution Against Aging and Death (RAAD). Individually, the first step should be to change our lifestyle which should include making the habit of eating more fresh fruits and seasonally available green leafy vegetables. Secondly, we should try to do more physical work. It may be in the form of professional need or recreational. The third step is to reduce smoking and alcohol consumption to a minimum level. The last and important thing is to get a good 8 hours sleep which also reduces and minimises our stress level. Stress is a new health problem which is a constant factor in today’s fast paced life that can jeopardise our health if left unchecked. It reduces the body immunity. Stress is a common conditional response to a physical threat or psychological distress that generates a host of chemical and hormonal reactions in the body. As a part of the adaptive response to stress various body systems such as the autonomic, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and immune systems may be affected.
Around 70% of the diseases are stress related. Breathing exercise and meditation have proved to reduce this stress, which has been proved by many bio feedback studies. Ample researches have shown that just 20 minutes of meditation a day increases endorphins, decreases cortisol levels and fosters positive states of mind to promote better health.
Planned and well enforced steps need to be taken to enhance the general immunity. Various scientific studies was conducted with an aim to highlight the beneficial effects of Yoga practice on bio-parameters, such as oxidative stress, antioxidant components, immune functions, and secretion of stress hormones. It was concluded that regular Yoga practice remarkably attenuated oxidative stress and improved anti-oxidant levels in the body. Yoga helps lower stress hormones that compromise the immune system, while also conditioning the lungs and respiratory tract, stimulating the lymphatic system to oust toxins from the body, and bringing oxygenated blood to the various organs to ensure their optimal function.
While the asanas make up the cornerstone of infection prevention, the benefits of Yoga don’t stop there. Since both common cold and flu attack the bronchial passages, it makes sense that conditioning the lungs and maximising one’s breathing capacity through pranayama would build resistance against the preying organisms. The means to enhance the immunity mentioned earlier are cost ineffective and cannot be practiced at large scale by the masses. However, Yoga doesn’t need any extra equipment or extra space as most other exercises need. Yoga, unlike other forms of exercise, focuses not only on a certain part of the body but works on everything.
The habit of Yoga, breathing and meditation should be the part of one’s daily activity to maintain physical, mental, social, psychological and spiritual health. Yoga needs only little time and is to be done at regular intervals to improve the general health of an individual. Practising Yoga daily for half an hour to one hour is enough to maintain good health. If we want to bring change in society then our target population should be children particularly adolescent and teenagers. As it is said, it is easy to make any habit in childhood but difficult to leave that habit in adulthood. Therefore the goal should be to target the children to give them good habits.
(The writers are orthopaedic surgeons based in Dehradun)
Monday, 22 June 2020 | Dr BKS Sanjay & Dr Gaurav Sanjay
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