Following the success of her previous book Yoga Therapy for Digestive Health comes Charlotte Watts’ timely exploration of our immune and respiratory systems, and how yoga and somatics play an integral part in maintaining whole-system health. We take a look inside the book, available to pre-order now…
When the UK went into its first COVID lockdown in 2020, people were abruptly separated and restricted from social contact. It wasn’t simply the virus itself that had devastating consequences for global health but the ensuing fear and reactivity, the effects of which are still rippling through our nervous systems. It was at this flashpoint of collective and individual trauma, stress and societal breakdown that Charlotte felt compelled to write Yoga and Somatics for Immune and Respiratory Health, knowing how vital the free flow of movement and social engagement are to mental and physical wellbeing. She was struck by the irony of how the focus of so much anxious attention at this time – immune and respiratory health – are most affected by stress and trauma.
Drawing on decades of experience as a nutritional therapist and therapeutically based yoga teacher, Charlotte has artfully brought together an impressive body of scientific research from diverse fields – from neuroscience, epigenetics, psycho-neuro-immunology, polyvagal theory and more.
As in her previous books, Charlotte explains her holistic approach:
“This steps away from the more medical model of ‘What is wrong?’ and ‘How do we fix it?’ – within both systemic models of yoga and Ayurveda, and nutritional therapy and functional medicine (the model behind much modern nutrition practices), there is a focus on exploring how systems function and how to support their optimal capacity. They are always coming from the perspective that we are whole (not a collection of separate parts), and that orchestration within its entirety (including our emotional landscape and psychological story) is always relevant. We differentiate – that is, look at different components – only to integrate, to come back to whole, to healing.”
The reception for the book amongst the academic and yoga community so far has been phenomenal. In her foreword, Joanne Avison explains how this book offers a practical tool:
“The book really demonstrates how yoga can offer a philosophy and model to support our everyday resilience and self-care, if we select appropriately from both the subtle and the strong practices. Recognising the connections between structure, system signalling and sensory awareness (with diagrams to make sense of how systems correspond and communicate), we can translate the work into practical application with confidence.”
It is from this perspective of wholeness, integral to yoga, that Charlotte structured the book. Each section expands from a deep academic dive into body/mind systems (again, weaving together from multi-disciplinary scientific specialisms to create cohesion, coming back to the models of yoga and Ayurveda for context) into physical and subtle practises that allow the reader to explore and embody the theory. Each chapter also includes a self-enquiry section, inviting reflective practice on the material, so as to forge a deeper, lived-experience connection. Extensive further resources encourage broader study.
The physical practices within the book follow an arc that mirrors human development; spiralling up from the ground, through primal movements to the fullness of standing into our space and creating strong boundaries, coming back to the restorative holding of the ground, rest, and incorporating sound and gesture to integrate the nervous system throughout. The six themes of the book have evolved alongside Charlotte’s successful course (Teaching Yoga for Immune and Respiratory Health) for Yogacampus:
Part 1: Healthy Defences – Exploring the territory that the immune and respiratory systems occupy within the context of the continual processes of breath, movement, awareness and enquiry as part of a whole-organism orchestration. This offers a clear explanation of human biology, how our immune and respiratory systems work and are interdependent.
Physical Practice: Somatic and Loosening Sequence
Subtle Practice: Mindfulness of Breathing
Part 2: Stress and Inflammation – How stress, inflammation and the autonomic nervous system relate to breath and immunity, through the lens of modern, human psycho-social factors. Exploring how the different strands and functions of the nervous system correlate with respiratory function to effect inflammatory responses in the body. Including studies on cellular ageing, post-viral fatigue and long COVID, Alzheimer’s and COPD.
Physical Practice: Undulating and Twisting
Subtle Practice: Coherent Breathing and Moon-Piercing Breath
Part 3: Fluid Adaptation – Looking at the ways in which bodily fluids and fascia are integral to the orchestration of breath and immunity, relating to the vagus nerve and nasal breathing for adaptive regulation and how we cope with life.
Part 4: Mindful Boundaries – How our physical form creates containment, cohesion and safety into which we can breathe fully. Exploring the distinction between internal and external for healthy boundaries and self-protection. From the physical boundaries of our skin, epithelium and microbiome, expanding to the gut-immune-stress connection, how mindful eating can effect visceral health and how early developmental trauma can effect psycho-emotional boundaries.
Physical Practice: Standing into Full Breathing and Protective Support Subtle Practice: Ujjayi Breath and Autogenic Release
Part 5: Embodied Awareness – Looking at how interoception (sensing inwards) supports self-regulation and balance through our fascial matrix, playing into our broader immune landscape. Contextualised through the yogic lens of the the Pancha Vayu model, Samkhya philosophy and the movement of prana. Exploring the subtlety of the meeting point between touch and proprioception, how we experience the world outside of our ‘self’ and dropping inwards to our inner, felt senses.
Physical Practice: Rest and Recovery
Subtle Practice: Traditional Pranayama
Part 6: Good Vibrations – Dropping into the mouth and throat as our first defence and gateway to the vitality for our respiratory and immune health. How sound and mantra can support healthy tissues in the throat and mouth, expanding to the whole environment of our microbiome and its relationship to physical and emotional wellbeing. Exploring the connectivity through the gut and the nervous system, the upper chakras and the space between the subtle and physical bodies experienced through sound.
Physical Practice: Bringing It All Together – Movement with Optional Sound
Subtle Practice: Simple Sounding and Mantra
Yoga and Somatics for Immune and Respiratory Health offers a vital resource for both professionals and students who wish to understand and therefore have greater impact holistically supporting clients with immune and respiratory health, but also accessible for those experiencing issues within their own bodies who are perhaps looking to expand their understanding. Pre-order your copy today.
Article written by Leonie Taylor, co-author and editor. www.centredspace.net, @centredspace