It hits you like a ton of bricks: you can barely keep your eyes open during the afternoon meeting, and your legs have been achy and tired all day. Meanwhile, your head’s starting to feel like it weighs about ten thousand pounds. You’re definitely coming down with something.
We use yoga to help with all kinds of physical conditions—everything from back pain to weight loss—so why shouldn’t you be able to leverage a gentle practice to help you when you feel an ailment coming on?
As it turns out, the right practice can get you plenty of immune-boosting benefits to cope with sickness when you’re a little under the weather. Experts note that there’s a link between the immune system and cortisol, the same hormone that’s affected by stress. Yoga helps to lower elevated stress hormones, while breathing exercises help with nasal blockages, sinus pressure, and chest pressure, as well.
Full Body Immunity with Folded Postures
Active postures and folds stimulate your body’s natural illness-fighting centers—in particular, downward-facing dog helps clear blocked sinuses and nasal pathways, as well as loosening mucus in the lungs. Stand on all fours and stretch your hips toward the ceiling, while reaching your heels toward the floor.
You don’t need to push your body too hard right now—you’re getting sick, after all—so bend your knees generously if you need to, or walk your feet out one at a time before settling into the pose.
Down dog is a fairly active pose, especially when you’re not feeling 100 percent. If you need a gentler posture, you can get some of the same benefits with a standing forward fold. Additionally, the forward fold relieves some of those stress and body aches, and can help with headache, as well. To do it, stand in mountain pose, and breathe. On an exhale, bend down from your hips, and place your hands on the ground or hold onto your ankles. If you’re feeling really unwell and need a gentler stretch, keep your knees bent, and hold onto your elbows. Let your head and torso flow over your feet, like a waterfall, and spend a few full breaths enjoying the quiet comfort.
Preventative Care with Turtle Pose and Seated Spinal Twist
Just starting to get that icky feeling? When you feel the first twinges of sickness coming on, reach for your mat and get into turtle pose, which stimulates the thymus glands. This part of the body produces T cells, which ward off disease.
To do it, sit in staff pose, with your legs extended straight in front of you. Bring your legs wide, as wide as the edge of the mat, and slowly bend your knees, keeping your feet flexed. As you begin to bend your draw your knees up, bend at the hips toward the floor, reaching your chest and arms toward the floor.
If you can, extend your arms outward, with your shoulders under your knees. Breathe deeply as you continue to reach your arms out to the sides.
You may also appreciate the benefits of a simple seated spinal twist. Sit with your legs out, and slowly bend your knee up with your foot flat on the ground. Hook the opposite arm over your bent knee, and twist by reaching over and around behind you. When you inhale, straighten, and when you exhale, twist deeper into the pose.
Breathing Exercises to Keep Your Sinuses in the Clear
Is your nose is already stuffed up? Breathing practices like Nadi Shodhan Pranayama, also known as alternate nostril breathing, really clear out your nasal passages and help with all different kinds of breathing ailments.
To get started, sit in lotus or cross-legged position. Let your left hand rest gently on your thigh. With your right hand, close your pointer, middle and ring fingers so that you turn your hand into a prong shape. With your thumb, press your left nostril closed and breathe in for four counts.
Switch so that your pinkie is holding your right nostril shut, and exhale for four counts. Inhale for four, and switch back so that your thumb is back on your left nostril and exhale. Continue like this for several minutes.
If you find that you have questions about any of these positions, you may want to consider contacting a personal trainer with experience in yoga. An expert yogi can examine your form and give you more complex suggestions for how to deepen your practice. Here’s to your health—and a sniffle-free flu season!
Erin Vaughan is a blogger, gardener and aspiring homeowner. She currently resides in Austin, TX where she writes about health and wellness for FitnessTrainer.
Main Photo Credit: Nuamfolio/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: George Rudy/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: Yana Ermakova/shutterstock.com; Fourth Photo Credit: fizkes/shutterstock.com