Monday, November 27, 2006


‘Tis the season. The abrupt changes in weather, coupled with holiday stress and travel, make it the perfect time for getting a cold. You probably already have a few favorite remedies for the usual symptoms of runny nose, stuffy head, coughing, and weariness. There are also a few yoga poses you can add to the chicken soup and cough drops that help relieve some of these aches and pains.

Often a bit of gentle exercise will help move a cold through your system faster and make you feel better. The “neck-check” rule can help you decide whether to hit the mat or stay in bed; if the majority of your symptoms are above the neck (nose, sinuses, throat) moving around could help—below the neck (lungs, stomach, gut), you should just rest. Of course, if you feel completely crummy, sleep is probably the best remedy of all (or calling your doctor, but if you feel that bad you shouldn’t even consider yoga).

Here are some poses to try. Be gentle and always chose a supported version of the pose. Stay hydrated (hot water—“silver tea”—can be very soothing) and don’t practice for very long. Your system is still working to fight the cold germs and shouldn’t be overtaxed.

Yoga Poses for Colds

Adho Mukha Svanasana
(Downward –Facing Dog) - Believe it or not, this favorite pose can be very helpful when you have a cold. By inverting the upper body, you can release some of the pressure in the sinuses by helping them drain. If you’re head-achy, you can support your head with a tower of blocks or do the pose halfway on a chair and resting your head on the seat (come out of the pose if you feel dizzy). An even gentler version is to rest your hands on the wall at hip height and step back until your hips are over your ankles. Let your head hang down and release the upper back. Come out of the pose and into Balasana (Child’s Pose) and rest your head on a block or blanket.

Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)- If Dog feels like too much, just simply bending forward with the knees bent and hips resting on the wall can help release pressure in the sinuses and tension in the neck. If you want a little stretch in the legs you can slowly straighten them by pressing the backs of the thighs towards the wall. Bend your knees to come back to standing and unfold slowly.

Salamba Sirsasana (Headstand) - If you have a bit more strength, a modified headstand can really open the sinuses and also move the blood around to give you a bit more energy. Set the arms and hands in a tripod, as for your usual headstand, but once you place your head in the cradle of the hands, just walk the feet forward but don’t kick up. Concentrate on supporting the neck and head by pressing into the forearms and keep the breath even. When you are ready, fold back down to Child’s Pose.

Baddha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose) - If you’re congested, sometimes just a simple chest opener and focused breathing can help open the lungs. Sit in Bound Angle with the back against the wall and open your palms on your thighs. Press your upper arms to the wall behind you to open the chest. Close your eyes and count breaths—starting at 4, then counting each exhale down to 1 and repeating for as long as you like. You will help release tension in the back with the leg position and counting helps calm the mind so this is a very soothing pose. It may help you settle before going to sleep.

Savasana (Corpse Pose)-Like Bound Angle, Corpse is very calming and you can pile up blankets or pillows to lean against, so you aren’t flat on the floor. This is more comfortable if you are congested. Try to let your shoulders relax and open the arms to the side to get a bit of chest opening. The angle of the blankets and the open arms often allow some draining, which relieves pressure in the sinuses. Have tissue handy! ©Brenda K. Plakans. All Rights Reserved

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