Why you keep catching colds (and the #1 way to help prevent them)

Woman sneezing
Autumn – the time of mists, mellow fruitfulness … and sneezing

So, once again, it’s the beautiful season of mists and mellow fruitfulness… And, once again, it’s the season of sniffles and lurgies …. Aaatchoo!!

The nights are drawing in, the leaves are turning …. and you’ve got ANOTHER cold! Cough, cough, sniff, sniff, bleurgh :(

You try to eat well, and try your best to look after yourself, so why oh why do you keep getting colds?!

Stress.  Pure and simple – that’s the #1 reason why so many of us keep catching colds.

Stress can compromise your immune system rendering it less able to fight off the bugs and lurgies which abound at this time of year (yes, thank you to that colleague who drags themselves into work with a really bad cold and proceeds to spread it around the workplace. Yes, thanks a bunch!).

So if you’re suffering from acute stress (e.g. preparing for a tight deadline for work) or ongoing chronic stress (e.g. grief, relationship troubles, or constant ongoing work pressures) and you’re exposed to the cold virus, then you have a higher likelihood of catching it and of it taking longer to shift.

What’s going on…

Hormones, including cortisol, are released when you’re under stress. These hormones prepare your body for a “fight or flight” response – as if you’re under attack.

Your heart rate increases, your lungs take in more oxygen, your blood flow increases, readying you to run away or go into combat. In this situation your immune system isn’t vital to your survival so it becomes temporarily suppressed.

The trouble is, if we’re constantly under stress, our immune system is constantly suppressed, compromising its effectiveness in allowing your body to deal with disease-causing pathogens.

And so many of us do live in a constant state of stress.

Work stresses, travel stresses, family pressures, just to name a few, and then we “relax” by watching the TV and see violence and injustice on the news, we watch dramas full of relationship problems, arguments and aggression and advertising is paraded in front of us which aims to sell by undermining our confidence and happiness.

All of these are pushing our stress buttons again!

It’s no wonder that we catch colds so easily! Our poor bodies are under attack from stress – add to the mix lurgies flying around, and the result = sniffles and bugs.

So we need to ensure we take positive steps to look after ourselves and to boost our immune systems. A good diet, plenty of sleep and exercise are essential.

But in addition, you can give you body a boost with … yoga, of course!

The yoga remedy

Autumn tree
Autumn is for enjoying nature’s beauty – not for sneezing and feeling grotty!

Yoga helps to boost the body’s immune system in many ways.

Yoga promotes good circulation which enables the substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and to do their job efficiently as well as bringing fresh, oxygenated blood to our organs to encourage optimal function.  It also stimulates the lymphatic system which expels toxins from our body

The long, deep breathing of our yoga practice stimulates the body’s “rest and digest” response (the parasympathetic nervous system) which ensures blood flows to the digestive, reproductive, glandular, and immune systems rather than being directed to the muscles. After all these organs and systems are much more important to our long-term survival, health and well-being than our muscles!

When we rest, our body has time to heal the damage and release the nervous tension caused by the stresses of everyday life.

This is why I always finish every yoga class with a 10-minute guided relaxation.

Try these at home

To improve your circulation, to breathe more deeply and to let go of tension try these:

  • EBR1 (video) –   to move every part of your body to improve circulation, stimulate the lymphatic system and to breathe deeply.
  • Cat (PDF) –  a heart-opener pose that helps to improve circulation and clear congestion in the bronchials.
  • Downward Dog (PDF) –  promotes circulation and helps to move white blood cells throughout the body. This is also an inversion pose, which helps to clear out the sinuses.
  • Child’s Pose (PDF) – to open the chest and the sides of the lungs to help prevent congestion

But what’s the #1, absolutely essential thing you can do to help boost your immune system?

Lie down and relax - This is my favourite yoga pose!
Lie down and relax – this is my favourite yoga pose!

**RELAX!!!*

If you only do one thing – make time to relax.

Your body can’t keep healthy, renew and heal itself if it’s constantly under stress.

So give yourself space to relax.  A few minutes a day. Go on, you can do it.

Yogic relaxation techniques are SO beneficial for your body and mind.

Relaxation lowers your body’s stress response; it gives it time to rest and heal; it balances your nervous system; it relaxes your muscles so you can begin to let go of chronic tension; it allows you to connect to a still, silent space within.

So, sit, or lie down comfortably NOW and listen to this 6 minute Release and Let Go relaxation.

Yes, you DO have time!

You owe it to yourself, and your loved ones (but most of all too yourself) to look after yourself.

So learn to relax and let go to release stress and fatigue, to detoxify your body and to balance the hormones you need for a strong immune system.

Nurture yourself, bring your body into balance, and nourish your mind, spirit and soul with yoga.


Over to you

What do you do to boost your immune system at this time of year? Come on over to my Facebook page and let us know.

What next?

If you would like regular tips, insights and wisdom delivered to your inbox, and to receive a free 17-minute guided relaxation, then please leave your name and email address.

And if you’d like to try a slower-paced, therapeutic approach to yoga which helps you to relax, then why not come along to one of my yoga classes in Southampton & Eastleigh, Hampshire, UK?

I teach six public classes a week as well as offering private 1-2-1 tuition, with a programme of workshops to come in 2015. Check out my yoga class timetable to find out more and make a booking enquiry.

{Sneeze photo credit: tinafranklindg / Foter / CC BY | Tree photo credit: Stella Tomlinson – it’s one of mine!}

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