Breathwork for Immunity boosts natural killer cells, de-stresses body, improves sleep, induces positivity and calms nerves to make it easier to fight the coronavirus.

IN BRIEF

  • Amid the anxiety and uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, breathwork for immunity is the best coping technique that people can use to keep them and their loved ones safer.
  • Breathing techniques are a scientifically-proven way to reduce stress and bolster the immune system.
  • Breathwork is simple, free and can easily be mastered by children, adults and the elderly to stay safe and healthy during the quarantine.

As the novel coronavirus pandemic embroils the world in a medical panic, a strong immune system remains the best defense, primarily because there is currently no vaccine to prevent the infection. Viral infections didrectly challenge the immune system and inflict tissue damage by eliciting a vicious inflammatory cycle. Breathwork for immunity, on the other hand, does the exact opposite.

Rhythmic breathing exercises such as Sudarshan Kriya (SK) and forms of Pranayama (P) harness the immune system and help it regenerate cells to stave off infections and diseases. These also improve circulation, clear congestion in the airways and reduce stress level which is exactly what is needed in the current coronavirus scenario that is taking a heavy toll on collective health. The virus-induced stress and paranoia are unprecedented and extremely dangerous for physical and mental wellbeing. [More on this below.]

Quarantine and self-isolation is a wonderful opportunity to focus on immunity so that even an unwitting exposure to the pathogen will have minimal effect on the health. Here is how the breathwork for immunity boosts the body’s natural defense system to deflect infections, including coronavirus.

1. Breathwork Boosts Natural Killer (NK) Cells in the Body

Natural killer (NK) cells are a major component of the immune system. As the name depicts, NK cells target, invade and kill the virus-infected cells. People who are deficient in NK cells are at an increased risk of viral infections, particularly herpes and coronavirus.

The viruses usually attack and populate the mucosal sites, mouth, nose, and windpipe, etc., the NK cells along with T-cells (types of white blood cells) orchestrate a consolidated attack on the invaders rendering them dead and expunged from the body. Moreover, the NK cells have a stellar memory; these remember the invaders for a long time ensuring there is no repeat assault. 

2. Breathwork increases NK levels naturally in the body. Here is how.

The brain and immune system are directly linked and communicate through neurons and hormones. When the brain or body is stressed, the effect is trickled down to immune cells whose number and activity reduce. A growing body of evidence suggests that breathwork and stress-reducing techniques are extremely beneficial in naturally increasing the body’s defense against microorganisms and pathogens. These techniques involve rhythms with long, medium and short breaths that purify and harmonize the brain and the body, reduce stress and improve heart and brain function.

A 2005 study investigated the benefits of SK and P in cancer patients and found that breathwork for immunity increases NK levels in 3-6 months. When NK cells in the body increased, the patients exhibited better immunity and response to anti-cancer therapy.

The Wim Hof Method – A Breathwork Technique for Invincible Immunity

Wim Hof, a renowned breathwork practitioner and immune system manipulator who holds 26 official Guinness World Records, boosts his immune system with deep breathing techniques. He has performed amazing feats such as climbing Mount Everest in shorts, swimming farthest under the ice and running barefoot in the snow in half marathon – all due to invincible immunity that he has built with the Wim Hof Method.

Available on Youtube as “The Wim Hof Method (WHM)” is based on cold therapy, breathing and commitment, and involves deep but controlled hyperventilation for a certain amount of time followed by holding of breath. It increases alkalinity in the blood which improves cell function and immunity. WHM accounts for Hof’s superhuman immunity and ability to accomplish incredible feats.

Alongside Wim, his brother Marcel, has also tested the boundaries of human potential in extreme temperatures and situations. Marcel has spent over 30 years mastering the art of Breathwork. His breathwork training program, called The Marcel Hof Method – Dopamine Activating Breathing, aims to:

·         Reduce stress & hypertension

·         Increase dopamine levels and energy levels without caffeine or stimulants

·         Drastically reduce anxiety & depression

·         Increase clarity & activate flow state

·         Access drug-free psychedelic states

·         Bridge the gap between the conscious & unconscious mind

The online course consists of a proprietary technique created by Marcel to trigger the activation of dopamine. A deficiency of dopamine in the brain has been scientifically proven to increase feelings of depression, anxiety, and fatigue  coupled with a sharp decrease in motivation and enthusiasm. By practicing this technique, and increasing dopamine levels, the opposite effect has occurred in practitioners. Many reports of feeling  more alive, focused, energetic and generally happier and more excited about life.

In addition, growing research has also shown that dopamine acts as an important regulator of immune function. Many immune cells express dopamine receptors and other dopamine related proteins, enabling them to actively respond to dopamine and suggesting that dopaminergic immunoregulation is an important part of proper immune function. Put simply, an activation of dopamine not only leaves one feeling happy and energized, but simultaneously strengthens the immune system, giving the body a greater chance of fighting off viruses, such as COVID-19. 

The Dopamine Activation Breathing technique can be learnt, practiced and mastered from the comfort of home. Click here for more information.

3. Breathwork for Immunity Calms Nerves and De-Stresses Brain & Body

Controlled breathing is a stress buster. It calms the panicked brain and stops the physiological functions from going awry. 

Stress management has become a challenge in the corona-hit world that has brought everything to a standstill. Global stress is currently on an all-time high. However, it is important to bear in mind that despite the coronavirus pandemic, stress remains the number#1 killer in the world. 

Stressing about things outside of in human control takes a heavy toll on wellbeing. As per the American Medical Association, stress alone is the reason for more than 60% of all diseases. When stressed, the body releases inflammatory mediators such as histamine that elicit a cascade of chemical reactions putting the body in a state of panic and anxiety. 

Amid the fear and nervousness of the outbreak, breathwork is a wonderful coping technique. 

How to Breathe to De-Stress?

Slow, relaxed and deep breathing through the nose only – ideally before going to bed or right after waking up – lowers stress levels. Breathwork increases the body’s capacity to inhale and supply oxygen to get cells out of the “panic mode”. It lowers stress hormone (cortisol) and blood pressure and improves blood flow, and mental wellbeing. A de-stressed body fights infections better.

4. Meditation Techniques Improve Sleep and Bolster Immune System

A lack of sleep jolts the immune system. People who do not get enough sleep are prone to infectious diseases.

Conversely, good sleep – 7-9 hours every day – bolsters the immune system by releasing protective proteins called cytokines. A healthy sleep–wake up cycle also protects against other health issues such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Stocking up on lost sleep with napping has shown to keep insomnia-induced stress and adverse effects on the immunity at bay.

Breathing to Sleep

Sleep-breathing exercises are a lifehack for poor sleep and focus on “normalizing and correcting breathing” to strike a balance between the conscious and subconscious mind and body. These exercises are numerous but the following two are worth a mention.

  • 4-7-8 Method: involves pursing lips and inhaling for 4 seconds, holding the breath for 7 seconds and exhaling for 8 seconds while making a whoosh sound. 4-7-8 method is based on an ancient yogic technique and calms nerves, reduces anxiety and brings the body in a state of deep relaxation. 
  • Diaphragmatic or Belly Breathwork for Immunity: involves sitting on a chair or lying on the back with bent knees and placing one hand on the chest and the other on the stomach. The air is breathed slowly through the nose and exhaled through pursed lips for exactly two seconds each. During inhalation, the abdomen is protruded while during exhalation, it is gently pressed. However, the chest remains still with every breath. 

Diaphragmatic breathing strengthens the diaphragm, reduces cortisol levels, blood pressure and heart rate, all of which pave way for better sleep.

Breathwork Induces Positive Thinking that Improves Immune Response

That positive thinking strengthens the immune system is no secret. Dozens of studies have found that optimism trains the body to take onto microorganisms without the fear of losing the battle. 

Ben Shaanan and colleagues injected a placebo drug into mice that brainwashed them into feeling positive. The drug stimulated the brain reward center and produced positive thoughts. The brainwashed mice were then infected with bacteria and their response was measured and compared with non-brainwashed mice. The optimistic mice responded better to the infection. The blood samples showed a large number of immune cells, i.e., phagocytes – cells that ingest harmful foreign particles, bacteria, and viruses.

So how does Breathwork for Immunity Spark Optimism? 

The science behind it is simple. Together with a healthy diet and exercise, deep breathing brings the best health to the body. A healthy body and brain return the favor by promoting optimism. 

Breathwork – conscientious inhaling through the nose and deep within the stomach in rhythmic cycles – increases oxygen supply in the brain and prevents neurons in the brain arousal system from firing and creating panic. Breathwork also relaxes the body, improves circulation and balances hormones that take negativity and stress out of the system.

5. Breathwork Activates Parasympathetic Nervous System

Slow, relaxed and deep breathing activates the “calm” nervous system – the parasympathetic (PS) nervous system (PSNS). PS is a bio-friendly system that puts the body at ease by relaxing muscles and nerves and restoring repair mechanisms. It is the major component of the innate immune system that modulates inflammation by building a neural circuit via the vagus nerve. It is the vagus nerve that responds to deep breathing. 

A variety of studies confirm that the vagus nerve regulates immunity in the body and its modulation calms the brain. A calm body puts up the best fight against infections and autoimmune diseases.

Yogic experts recommend engaging diaphragm while breathing to activate PSNS. It can be done by inhaling deeply into the belly for the count of 4, holding and then exhaling slowly for 6, 7, 8 seconds.

To Sum it Up

Along with a healthy lifestyle, breathwork for immunity is a scientifically proven way of de-stressing and de-cluttering the brain and improving natural resistance in the body against bacteria and viruses. The practice – particularly The Marcel Hof Method – Dopamine Activating Breathing – will come handy in the time of unprecedented coronavirus-induced stress.

To quote the renowned stem cell biologist, Bruce Lipton, Ph.D.,

As presented in The Biology of Belief, stress is responsible for up to 90% of illness, including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. When an individual is in stress, the release of stress hormones (e.g., cortisol) shuts down the immune system to conserve the body’s energy for running away from the perceived stressor, that proverbial “saber-toothed tiger.” Stress hormones are so effective at compromising the immune system, that physicians therapeutically provide recipients of organ transplants with stress hormones to prevent their immune e system from rejecting the foreign implant.In just 20 minutes per day of breathing, The Marcel Hof Method produces a deep trance state that reduces stress and anxiety and boosts the immune system. Find out more here.

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