From a holistic perspective, disease is the result of imbalance in the body. The word literally means “not at ease”. When there is an imbalance of bacteria, stress, poor eating habits, etc., disease will occur.
Although generally thought of as a form of physical fitness, yoga is actually an ancient philosophy, which combines proper eating, exercise and lifestyle practices to create balance in the body. Many yogic practices/poses are designed specifically to cleanse the body and to ward off disease.
For a little extra boost to the immune system, try a few of these techniques at home.
Yoga teaches two main breathing exercises to clear the sinuses, and to keep the upper respiratory tract healthy called Kapalabhati and Surya Bedhana Pranayama.
Kapalabhati, also called “Skull Brightener Breath,” is designed to cleanse both the lungs and the blood.
Sit upright in a comfortable position. Begin by exhaling all the air slowly. Next, inhale deeply through your nose, then quickly and forcefully exhale all the air. Again, inhale deeply and quickly. This is one expulsion or breath. The action is similar to blowing your nose. Repeat for 20 to 30 expulsions. Rest, then repeat two or three more times.
Surya Bedhana Pranayama, or “Alternate Nostril Breath,” is designed to open the sinuses and balance the mind.
Again sit up comfortably. Close your eyes. Press your right thumb on the outside of your right nostril. Exhale through the left side. Inhale slowly, to the count of four. Use the thumb and ring finger to pinch the nostrils shut. Hold the breath for 16 seconds. Release the thumb and exhale through the right nostril for the count of eight. Inhale again through the right nostril for the count of four. Pinch both nostrils and hold the breath for 16 seconds. Release the ring finger and exhale through the left side for the count of eight.
This is considered one round. Repeat this technique 10 or 12 more times. If you are already congested, make sure your clear your sinuses before beginning.
NETI (CLEANSING) PRACTICES
Many neti practices are very advanced and require the guidance of a guru, or yoga master. However, jala neti is a simple practice that can be done at home on a daily basis. This technique is believed to help prevent colds and sinus infections, and to even treat seasonal allergies.
Use either a small pot, cup or purchase an actual neti pot. Fill it with warm water and one teaspoon of salt. Mix thoroughly. Tip your head to one side while standing over a sink. Pour the contents of the pot through the upper nostril, and allow it to drain out the lower nostril into the sink. Blow the nose thoroughly to expel any remaining mucous. Repeat the process on the opposite side.
The yogic diet is primarily lacto-vegetarian. It is a very cleansing diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Yogis typically eat two large meals a day, one mid-morning and the other in the late afternoon or early evening. A few snacks may be eaten in between, such as fruit, nuts or yogurt.
For main dishes, try yogi-friendly foods such as tofu, brown rice, lentils and chickpeas which are high in both complex carbohydrates and quality protein. Also, try to eat fruits alone as snacks and remember to include fresh vegetables such as broccoli, carrots, onions, peppers and turnips with each meal to get those essential vitamins and minerals.
Eating a lighter, vegetarian-based diet helps maintain a clean digestive tract, and may even prevent many diseases.
1. Yoga Journal: Yoga Poses – http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/finder/browse_categories
2. Yoga Journal: Everyday