Immune power: How Cold Therapy and Yoga Can Strengthen The Immune System

The year 2020 has been quite challenging for all of us, but it has also brought us positive effects. Among other things, the question of how we can strengthen our immune system in a natural way and make our body less susceptible to viruses, has come more into focus. As a result, ice bathing has developed into a real trend during the past winter months. Not only in Munich could people be seen standing in icy streams wearing woolen bobble caps while the surrounding meadows were still covered with snow: Also, outside the city, brave individuals were wading in the surrounding lakes at 5° centigrade water temperature and even swimming a few rounds.

Broadwalk leads into water

Cold water has a positive effect on the body

Speaking of ice bathing, one name in particular, is currently making the rounds: Wim Hof, an outstanding Dutch athlete, can stand in extreme cold for an exceptionally long time, thanks to his breathing technique. In2011, he stood up to his neck in ice water for one hour and 52 minutes, a world record that he himself had broken several times before. In the meantime, it has been proven that spending time in cold water has a positive effect on the immune and cardiovascular systems, the connective tissue of the body, the body's ability to regenerate, the psyche and our general well-being.

Healing through water

However, long before Wim Hof, a German had discovered and spread his knowledge about the cold therapy: Sebastian Kneipp (1821-1897). He had suffered from tuberculosis as a young man and by regularly dousing himself with water and bathing in the ice-cold Danube, he recovered. Later, it is said that he cured a woman suffering from cholera and even a whole herd of cattle from the foot-and-mouth disease through his water treatments. The effectiveness of his water therapy for treating infections, high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases, among others, has today been proven by various research studies as having a positive effect on the human body.

Training with alternating showers

Those who would like to ice-bathe should first train their bodies to get used to the cold water by taking alternating showers. The alternating shower between hot and cold constriction and dilating of the blood vessels improves circulation, strengthens the body's defenses, has a detoxifying effect and gives you fresh energy, especially in the morning. Endorphins and anti-inflammatory corticoids are also released. Afterwards, you often feel vital, full of joy and energy. Reasons enough to give it a try, especially in these times!

If you want to jump into ice cold water, you should take someone with you to keep an eye on you and only stay in the water only for a few seconds at first. It is important to warm up your body before and after the ice bath through breathing and body exercises and to breathe deeply and calmly during the bath. As we emit 30 % of our body heat through the head, it is advisable to wear a woolen cap and not to submerge completely. If you like, you can also put on gloves and neoprene socks. However, it is recommended for those who suffer from high blood pressure and cardiovascular diseases that they should rather avoid ice bathing.

Yoga teacher Ranja Weiss is doing a headstand at the shore of a lake wearing a yoga outfit from Mandala.

Strengthening the immune system through yoga and breathing techniques

For those who would prefer to support the immune system more comfortably, there are proven Yoga exercises that can be wonderfully practiced at room temperature in a warm and dry surrounding. Most of our immune cells are produced in the abdominal area, especially in the intestines and spleen. Therefore, exercises that stimulate Agni, the digestive fire, are very helpful. For example, a good sequence of exercises could be a breathing technique, such as Kapalabhati, Sufi Circles, Forward Bends, Cobra and Twisting Seat. As we know from Psychoneuro-Immunology Research that the mind, nerve and immune system influence each other, all relaxation techniques that work against stress are also good for our defenses.

And in closing, even the grandmother of a good friend of mine already knew that most important for along life are good thoughts.

Foto and Text: Ranja Weis