Yoga therapy & sequences for colds
So that time of year is here again! The kid’s are back to school and with that comes the trailing back home of all manner of bugs and sniffles. Added to that we’re torn between the regulating of our body temperatures with the do we don’t we put the heating on argument and the constant battle of clothing layers coming on and off between fresh natural environments and stuffy heated interiors such as offices and shops.
In spite of the tendency to want to crawl under a blanket and do as little as possible at the first sign of a cold, doing yoga could actually dramatically help us to stall if not stop the onset of a cold all together.
Depending on the stage your cold is at, with yoga we have all manner of poses to help boost immunity, open up the respiratory tract, flush out toxins, and calm the nervous system. In this post you will find some suggestions for yoga poses which can be incorporated into your day when you feel like you need a little more than vitamin C to combat the dreaded lurgy. Choose those poses which fit your current state and needs, or complete the whole set to really give your cold a great big Yogi kick in the butt!
Pranayama for colds– Alternate nostril breathing
This yogic breathing exercise will help you to create a better flow of oxygen to the lungs and will also break up stubborn congestion, germs and bacteria in your nasal passage. Whilst this may not be available to you as an exercise with really heavy congestion, in the case of light congestion it may even rid your nasal passage of those unwanted invaders.
Start by closing off your left nostril with your ring finger and inhaling slowly and deeply through your right nostril. Close over your right nostril with your thumb and exhale through your left, pause, then inhale left, close left, exhale right, pause, inhale right. Repeat the cycle for at least 1 minute, or more if you can manage it. You will also find that this breathing exercise stills your mind ready for your asana practice.
Begin with Yin
Yin yoga is a great way to calm the nervous system and still your mind as it is held for longer periods than your regular asana practice. As Yin is supposed to be performed with cold muscles in order to work with your Yin tissues (Fascia, tendons, ligaments), this part of your practice is better done at the beginning. Below is a suggested 20 minute Yin sequence for colds. And don’t forget to keep your socks and a pullover on to stop you further catching a chill!
- Reclining butterfly 3- 6 mins – This pose brings us into our practice and a calmer sense of being by relaxing our nervous system and mind. It also opens up the respiratory tract, hips and groin.
- Dragonfly 3 – 5 mins– Also calms the nervous system and mind.
- Dangling 2- 4 mins– Brings energy to the head and respiratory area and helps to clear the sinuses.
- Supported Childs 2 mins– Rest down on a bolster or cushions for a more restorative version of this restful asana as a counterpose to dangling.
- Camel 1- 2 mins– Opens up your back and chest while cleaning out your passageways.
- Childs 2 mins- As a counterpose to Camel.
- Downdog 1- 3 mins– Start to prepare yourself for the next stage of the practice in this full body stretch. Downdog, with a little bit of help from gravity, encourages the production of immune boosting white blood cells and also helps with sinus drainage. After 6 -10 breaths feel free to peddle out your legs or sway back and forth/side to side to start to bring a bit of movement into your practice to wake up your body and mind.
Boosting your energy levels
If you feel like your energy levels are a bit depleted, then a few rounds of Sun Salutation A and B should help you to get the blood pumping round your system, help flush through the lymphatic system and maybe even give you a a yogi style natural espresso shot.
Twists can give you an internal wringing out; flushing toxins from your organs, encouraging fresh blood flow and the production of immune boosting white blood cells. Include twists in your Surya Namaskar B by adding poses such as Twisted Chair, Twisted High Lunge and Twisted Downdog to the sequence.
After Cobra pose in your salutations you could also include Bow pose, which places a gentle compression on the digestive system and abdominal organs and also helps to stimulate and boost overall immunity.
Inversions to strengthen immune function
Yoga inversions such as Headstand place your heart below your head to strengthen immune function through flushing the body with fresh white blood cells and lymph fluid. Shoulderstand compresses the thyroid gland, which helps to stimulate the endocrine, immune and nervous system. Shoulder stand can be followed by a half or full plough pose, which further continues to stimulate the thyroid in the throat. And Bridge pose increases activity in the Thymus gland, which is the gland that supports immunity and plays a vital role in the lymphatic system (your body’s defence network) and endocrine system (responsible for the production and regulation of hormones).
It might be a good idea to rest in Childs after headstand and take a counterpose of Fish pose to open up the respiratory tract again if you’ve practiced Shoulderstand and Plough. After Bridge pose, ground your back and keep your knees bent, dropping in towards each other, with both feet on the floor in Constructive rest pose.
If nothing else try some Restorative Yoga
Restorative poses are an accessible option if you’re really feeling too rough to try any of the above and also make for a lovely way to finish off your practice, bringing you into a calm and restful state. Stay in each asana for as long as you feel the need, making sure not to rush any transitions in and out of the poses. Here is a suggested Restorative sequence for colds:
- Supported prone spinal twist – Sit with both knees bent to one side and place a bolster or some cushions down the length of your mat starting at your hip point. Twist your torso in the direction of the support and lower your body directly onto it, turning your head in the opposite direction if possible for a full spinal twist from your lumber through to your cervical spine.
- Prone one knee to chest – On coming out of the spinal twist, remove all props and lie down on your belly with your head facing the side. Draw that same side knee up towards your chest and stay here for at least a minute before repeating the other side.
- Supported Childs pose – Rest your forehead or entire body on a bolster or some cushions with your arms behind to release your back after the twisting work.
- Legs up a wall – A gentler alternative to the aforementioned inversions but with all the benefits. You can prop your buttocks up on a cushion or two to create a little deeper inversion.
- Supported Bridge with legs extended – Place a bolster, block or some cushions along your mid back where the natural curve of your spine starts. Allow your sit bones and the back of your head to be in contact with the floor. This will finish your practice by once again opening the respiratory tract and bring you into a deep state of calm
Savasana to allow the body & mind time to rest and repair
The importance of a deep and mindful relaxation at the end of your practice to allow your body to realign and reap all the benefits of your practice, are more important than ever if you’re feeling under the weather. Try to allow yourself at least 10 minutes of downtime in this most restorative of asanas, using cushions under your knees, wrists and head if you want to really sink into a deep and restful corpse pose.