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We all know that yoga is good for the mind, body, and spirit, but what I don’t automatically think about is how the physical effects of yoga go so much further than just increased muscle strength and flexibility. The fact of the matter is that yoga can influence your glands within your body, specifically the thymus gland.
I don’t know about you all, I’ve heard all about the thyroid, adrenal, and pituitary glands, but never the thymus gland. First of all, the thymus gland lies above the heart, and right between the lungs. This tiny little bundle of glandular tissue is closely related to our immune system (something we all need to start thinking about now that the cold and flu season is upon us). So, what does the thymus gland really do? How does it impact our immune system? Check on this picture where the thymus gland is:
The thymus gland is a lot different than most other body structures, rather than growing as we age, the thymus gland actually shrinks after puberty. As this gland shrinks, it is replaced with fatty tissue. The shrinkage that occurs is due largely to the fact that we do not need to utilize this in our later years.
T-cells are the thymus gland’s specialty, developing the immature T-cells into strong, functional, foreign cell attacking T-cells. These T-cells are what helps us to fight viruses, foreign invaders, and/or bacteria. So basically, the thymus gland is a little school for the T-cells to grow and to learn what they need to do/what to attack.
In addition to having physical ramifications, the thymus gland also has emotional/spiritual influences. Due to the fact that the thymus gland is located near our heart, when activated within yoga poses (we will explain some below) it clears your heart chakra and allows you to love without interruption/interference. Through activating your thymus gland (with yoga poses, mindfulness, energetic breathing, etc.), you’re awakening the energy that lies within this gland. With this infusion of energy, you may feel more energetic, happier, healthier, and full of life and love to give.
Negative emotions can detrimentally impact the health and wellness of your thymus gland, as it can for the rest of your body and your mind. When this occurs, you may feel fatigued, overwhelmed, and may get sick more frequently and for longer than others. By being mindful of the health and wellness of our body and mind, we are keeping our energy channels open/clear.
Now that we know all about the influence of the thymus gland, and how it can benefit our overall health let’s take it to the mat (the yoga mat this is). The following yoga poses stimulate the thymus gland as we open up our chest, improving circulation, redirecting positive energy into the gland, and boosting the immune system as a whole! When in these poses hold for about 5 to 10 breaths (as long as it is comfortable for you that is):
Cow pose (Marjariasana)
Start in a tabletop position, with your wrist, elbow, and shoulder all in alignment, and then your knees under hips (all about the alignment baby). On your inhale drop your belly to your mat, look up to the ceiling, and let your sits bones also go towards the ceiling. You should feel a phenomenal abdominal stretch in this pose. Really focus on keeping your shoulders down and away from your ears, opening up your chest cavity and letting your heart (and thymus gland) shine.
Cobra pose (Bhujangasana)
Start with laying on your tummy, with your legs straight out behind you and the tops of your feet rooted into the mat. While keeping your elbows tight into your body, place your hands near your ribs right under your shoulders. On your inhale slowly start to straighten your arms, but keeping the front of your hips (pubis) connected to the mat (mind your limits!). Again, keep your shoulders down and away from your ears (no earmuffs people).
Supported Fish pose (Matsyasana)
Place two blocks in a “T” shape on the medium height of the blocks (one block will go between your shoulder blades and the other will support your head) (Learn all there is to know about blocks here). Gently lay down so your back is on top of those two blocks (using a blanket is a great way to cushion those blocks if you’re uncomfortable), making adjustments to ensure the blocks are in correct placement. Feel free to elongate your legs, or bend your knees – again whichever is most comfortable for you. Allow yourself to melt over the blocks, opening up your heart and creating space within your chest cavity.
Bow pose (Dhanurasana)
Bow pose is a lot more of an active pose than the above three. Start on your tummy, and bring your heels to your tush so they’re close enough where you can grab the ankles of your feet with your hands (left hand holds left ankle and right hand holds right ankle). Keeping your knees hip width or closer, inhale and lift your chest and thighs away from your mat. It should feel like your belly button is the only thing touching your mat. Again, keep your shoulders down, heart open, and gaze forward. When you are ready to come out of this position, gently release, DO NOT just release, be kind to your body.
Bridge pose (Setu bhanda)
Lying on your back, bend your knees and walk your feet as close to you bum as possible. Lifting your bum off the mat, clasp your hands together underneath you and below your tush to stay on top of your shoulders. Make sure that your knees are in line with your hips, letting them go out may cause injury. With each inhale and exhale feel an invisible wire pulling your belly button higher to the ceiling.
When moving through these poses be mindful to elongate through your clavicles (aka collarbones) and imagine a ball of energy within your mind moving towards your heart center, energizing the thymus gland. Through these simple, mindful adjustments your thymus gland and immune system will thank you!
Have you heard about the mysterious thymus gland? What do you think about these yoga poses to stimulate and redirect energy to this gland? Any other tips/advice you’ve learned from other yogis?
I can’t wait to read all of your thoughts! Thanks all for reading, and hopefully these additions to your yogi practice will help you stay healthy this holiday season!