Body

Yoga for the soul: Poses to help boost winter immunity

Kundalini yoga gave Erin O'Hara a sense of equilibrium - now she wants to introduce others to the sacred practice.

Erin O’Hara has been a major force in introducing Kundalini yoga to New Zealand.

She describes yoga as "a little bit like a dance" - and Kundalini is no different.

"Kundalini is particularly good for people who lead really active lives as it balances the glandular system, bringing the body, mind, breath and soul into balance. It focuses heavily on breathing and meditation and includes some chanting," she says.

To reduce stress and boost your immunity:
Power up your immune system and beat cold-and-flu season with yoga postures to stimulate the thymus gland, improve digestive function, reduce stress levels, and cleanse the lymphatic system.

Yoga works on a glandular level to boost the production of vital hormones from the adrenals, hypothalamus, and pituitary glands. When the body is in balance our immunity allows it to have the defences to fight off infections and diseases. Your health relies on how well the body is cleansing to remove toxins and waste products through the elimination channels: bowels, kidneys, lungs, skin and lymphatic system.

These Kundalini yoga postures will help to boost your immunity this winter:

1. Bear grip
Sit on your heels with a tall spine. Place the left palm facing out and the palm of the right hand facing into the chest. Curl the fingers of both hands together to form a grip. Inhale through the nose, hold the breath as you try to pull the hands apart, and then relax the hands as you exhale out the nose. Continue for 1-3 minutes.

Benefits: Stimulates the thymus gland to help the body fight infection, and opens the heart centre.

2. Rock Pose (or Vajrasana):
Sit on to your heels and place hands on to your knees. Inhale, then exhale and hold the breath out while you pump the belly in and out rapidly. Continue for 1-3 minutes.

Benefits: Stimulates and massages the digestive system to help with the elimination of toxins from the body. It is a great posture to stimulate the spleen and purify the blood.

3. Frog pose
Stand up and place the heels together with the toes turned out. Then squat down, raising the heels (ideally keeping them together), aligning the knees over the toes, and placing your fingertips on the floor in front of you. Inhale, raising the hips and straightening the legs. Exhale and return to the squatting position. Repeat 26 times.

Benefits: Frogs strengthen the legs and will activate the energy through the lower digestive system. The energy is transferred from the lower to the upper body by boosting the circulation of blood and the lymphatic system.

4. Spinal twist
Sit cross-legged or on your heels. Place your hands on your shoulders with fingers in front and thumbs at the back. Inhale and twist the body to the left. Exhale and twist to the right. Rotate from the navel point (belly). Continue 26 times or for 1-2 minutes.

Benefits: Stimulates and massages the digestive system to help with the elimination of toxins from the body. It also opens across the heart centre to stimulate the thymus gland.

5. Meditiation: 3-stroke breath for health, energy, and radiance
Sit in a comfortable posture with a straight spine. Clasp the hands together without interlacing your fingers. Place the hands in front of your chest: the heart centre. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing pattern.

Inhale in three parts through your mouth and squeeze the hands together with each sip of breath. Exhale through the nose in one deep breath out and relax the hands. Continue this breathing for 3-7 minutes.

To end, take a deep breath in and hold the breath as you squeeze the whole body tight as steel, then ‘cannon fire’ the breath out through your mouth. Repeat for three breaths.

Benefits: Stimulates the thymus gland in the centre of the chest to mature T-cells that help the body to fight off infections. The stroke breath brings the diaphragm into a rhythm to calm the nervous system and boost energy levels.

6. Single leg lifts
Begin lying flat on your back with your arms resting at your sides, and palms facing downwards. Inhale and press the lower back against the floor and lift one leg upward to 90 degrees while activating the abdominal muscles, pulling the navel inwards. Exhale and lower the leg slowly back to the floor, ensuring that the lower back does not lose contact with the floor. Repeat on the other leg. Continue for 1-3 minutes. For an easier variation: place the hands under the body to support your lower back.

Benefits: Strengthens the abdominal muscles and stimulates the digestive system to help with elimination of toxins and waste from the body.

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