We are seeing a fascinating newish branch of science, called Psychoneuroimmunology, emerging as a more and more relevant topic for these times. It's the study of the interactions and connection between the mind, nervous system and immune system.
We are seeing more and more that the human body is an amazing whole-istic design, where one aspect very much influences the other in a feedback loop.
The saying 'you are what you eat' stands true, as well as you are what you think and feel. In this instance, from a psychoneuroimmunological perspective, your immune wellness is only as good as your your thought, and sensory wellness.
In cases of autoimmunity, the parallel psychology is one of attacking oneself. The body's immune system has been programmed (genetically and/or individually) to perceive some of its own body tissues as an enemy. It then proceeds to attack this organ. In autoimmune conditions there is a hyperactivity in the immune response and a lack of discernment between one's own tissue and foreign substance.
In 'weak' immunity, we see poor boundaries, and in hyperactive immunity we see an over vigilance for invaders.
Ultimately, we are living in conversation with all of our internal systems, as well as external systems (bacteria, nature, animals, viruses, other people, food). We are in constant symbiotic relationship internally and externally. And, it seems the key to wellness is to find as much balance and harmony internally and externally, whilst at the same time maintaining appropriate boundaries.
A healthy immune response is a sophisticated filtering response rather than a warring response. This healthy response is maintained by keeping stress levels at minimum. As soon as stress levels get high and chronic, we begin to lose microbiome in the gut. They just withdraw. The body goes into heightened alert state, and the major systems of the body shut down in order to redirect energy to fight flight response.
How does Yoga figure in Psychoneuroimmunology? Well, Yoga is unique in that it has a very sophisticated approach to breathwork (with several pranayama techniques and deep diaphragmatic practices), as well the physical practice being stimulating, strengthening, balancing and relaxing. The philosophy of Yoga in itself can also keep us calm and stress free!
Fundamentally the practice of Yoga means to yoke. To connect us to the whole. We begin to have an understanding of the whole through the practice. We realise we are not separate. We find the divinity in our human body, refine our consciousness and find grounding. We find our breath, our fluidity and our strength.
Physically we are able to access more range of space in the body through Yoga than with any other exercise, and, Yoga has now been proven to be the number one exercise to reduce stress and anxiety.
I have found that my Yoga practice has proved a game changer in my nutritional choices. My Yoga practice inspires me to choose according to what my body needs, which feels grounding in itself. It also helps me calm anxious thought, and prevents the broken record loops!
The practice, especially conscious breathwork helps to tone the vagal nerve, which prompts the body into calmer states, which in turn maintains a healthy immune response.
So, from a pscyhoneuroimmunological perspective, Yoga is pretty optimal!