It’s that time of year again! No, not the holidays. I’m talking about cold and flu season. Doing yoga regularly, like any doing regular exercise routine, can help boost your immune system. However, no matter our best efforts, sometimes we succumb to the germs of the season. Should you keep doing yoga while you’re sick? Let’s take a look at the ways we can both help and hinder the healing process with the aid of our yoga practice.
Doing Yoga While You’re Sick
Way back when I started to really commit to a regular yoga practice, I came across my first real challenge to that commitment: a nasty cold. I don’t know about you, but I can get derailed pretty easily. I really worried that stopping my yoga practice altogether while sick would make it that much easier for me to not ever start it again. So, I desperately looked for ways to make yoga a part of my illness recovery. I’m here to pull together all that I have learned about how to keep doing yoga while you’re sick.
The biggest key to keep doing yoga while you’re sick is to choose the right kind of practice. This is not the time for power hot yoga. Instead, opt for a restorative yoga practice. Doing this kind of gentle practice can help alleviate those stiff, achy muscles we get from just laying around all day when we’re sick. As the name might imply, restorative yoga can also help promote deeper feelings of rest and relaxation, which can aid your body in the healing process. But perhaps the best thing about doing a restorative practice is that you likely don’t even need to get out of bed to do it!
Simply choose a few restorative poses and move through them gently. A few great choices would be restorative bound angle pose, restorative child’s pose, or simply legs-up-the-wall pose. Stay in each pose for five to ten minutes, or even longer, to get the best effect. Use your blankets and pillows as props to help you get into the most restful and relaxing position.
Things to Avoid
Particularly if you have a cold, you probably want to steer clear of most inversions, legs-up-the-wall being one possible exception. When you’ve got a stuffy or runny nose, being in inversions can be just plain uncomfortable. It can add to the sinus pressure and congestion you’ve got going on. Moving back and forth quickly from being in an inversion to being upright can also cause fluid to shift around and make you dizzy. Obviously, this can be highly individual. So if you choose to do down dog or headstand, take things very slowly, both going into and coming out of the pose. If you feel discomfort or dizziness, stop and back out of the pose slowly and carefully.
If you’ve got nausea or stomach upset, avoid twisting postures. These poses serve to stimulate digestion, which isn’t desirable when your digestive system is already overstimulated. Additionally, they’ll just probably feel uncomfortable, which is the opposite intended effect of a restorative practice.
Finally, if you have something more serious than a cold, take caution. Fever and the flu can really sap your energy. Even gentle sun salutations can be too much for your body if you’ve got a more serious illness. Stick to the reclined restorative postures in bed if you choose to do any yoga at all.
Listen to Your Body
The key part of any yoga practice is to listen to your body. We do yoga in order to tune into the physical body and calm the mind chatter. If your body is telling you to stop, take notice and do what your body is telling you. Done properly, doing yoga while you’re sick can bring more ease and comfort to your illness and speed you on your way to recovery.