Feeling sniffly, achy, and congested? Discover seven yoga Stretches poses that can provide relief from sickness and help you recover faster.
When you’re under the weather, your sick-day checklist usually includes tissues, cough medicine, and a thermometer. But have you considered adding a yoga mat to the mix?
While it may not be your first thought, yoga stretches can be a powerful tool to alleviate symptoms of the common cold and flu. Several yoga poses are renowned for their ability to ease everything from sinus congestion to digestive discomfort.
But can stretching really make a difference when you’re sick? Absolutely! In fact, there’s scientific evidence to support it.
According to a 2018 review, regular yoga practice has been linked to reduced inflammation, making it a valuable complementary approach for individuals at risk of or experiencing inflammatory diseases.
Furthermore, a 2013 study involving 120 individuals undergoing chemotherapy for the first time found that practicing yoga led to reductions in nausea, vomiting, and self-reported anxiety and depression. The researchers attributed these benefits to yoga’s ability to normalize food movement through the digestive tract and increase parasympathetic activity.
Whether you’re a seasoned yogi or new to stretching, these seven yoga Stretches poses can target specific symptoms and offer natural relief.
1. Supported Child’s Pose for Nausea Relief
Child’s Pose is known for its relaxation benefits, but it can also help soothe nausea. Caroline Young, a registered dietitian and yoga teacher, recommends gentle stretches and deep breathing to alleviate nausea. Try a restorative Child’s Pose with a pillow or bolster under your torso:
- Kneel on your mat with a pillow or bolster placed lengthwise in front of you.
- Spread your knees wide, keeping your big toes touching.
- Sit your hips back, resting your buttocks on your heels.
- Lean forward, allowing your upper body to rest on the pillow or bolster, and your head to rest on it.
- Stretch your arms toward the top of your mat.
2. Legs Up the Wall for Headache Relief
Legs Up the Wall is a simple inversion pose that can improve circulation, reduce leg and foot swelling, and alleviate headaches. To perform this pose:
- Sit facing a wall and lie down on your side with your shoulders and head against the floor.
- Roll onto your back, lift your legs, and scoot your tailbone close to or touching the wall.
- Extend your legs up the wall until they are straight or nearly straight.
- Find a comfortable position for your arms and hands.
3. Modified Camel Pose for Chest Congestion
Chest congestion during a cold can be uncomfortable, but poses like Modified Camel Pose can help clear mucus from your chest. Here’s how to do it:
- Kneel on your mat with knees hip-width apart and feet hip-width behind you.
- Lean back slightly and, one hand at a time, place your hands pointing downward on your lower back.
- If comfortable, let your head drop backward, opening your throat toward the ceiling. Skip this step if you have a neck injury.
- Breathe deeply into your open chest.
4. Cobra Pose for Deeper Breathing
Cobra Pose also expands the chest, allowing for deeper breaths. Deep breathing not only relieves chest congestion but also reduces overall pain. To perform Cobra Pose:
- Lie on your belly on your mat with feet hip-width apart and pointed behind you.
- Place your palms down underneath your shoulders, keeping your elbows at your sides.
- Push up with your hands, lifting your chest and upper body off the ground while lengthening your neck.
- Gaze forward and take deep breaths.
5. Downward-Facing Dog for Sinus Relief
Downward-Facing Dog is a versatile pose that stretches your hamstrings, calves, and Achilles tendons. It is also an inversion that can alleviate head pressure and support sinus blood flow. To practice Downward-Facing Dog:
- Begin on your hands and knees with your fingers pointing forward and knees hip-width apart.
- Curl your toes under and push into your hands to lift your hips, creating an inverted V shape with your body.
- Spread your fingers and rotate your inner elbows forward.
- Let your head hang down and slide your shoulder blades away from your ears.
6. Rag Doll Pose for Headache Relief
Rag Doll Pose encourages the release of tension in the upper body and can relieve headaches caused by muscle tension. Here’s how to do it:
- Stand on your mat with feet hip-width apart.
- Raise both arms toward the sky, allowing your hands to meet with palms facing each other above your head.
- Release your arms and bend at the waist with slightly bent knees, allowing your arms to hang in front of you.
- Continue to fold forward, letting your arms dangle toward the floor, or grasp each elbow with the opposite hand.
7. Shoulder Stand or Plow Pose for Digestive Relief
If you’re dealing with digestive issues during illness, consider practicing the Shoulder Stand or the less intense Plow Pose. These inversions can relieve pressure, slow down the digestive process, and provide relief from diarrhea. Here’s how to perform them:
- Start by lying on your back with your legs bent, knees pointing upward, and feet on the ground.
- For Plow Pose, lift your legs and hips overhead, pressing your palms down on the mat for support. Your feet may or may not touch the floor above your head.
- To transition from Plow to Shoulder Stand, straighten your legs and point your heels upward. Place your hands on your hips for support.
- Keep your thighs together, focusing the weight on your upper back and arms, not your neck.
Gentle yoga stretching can be a valuable tool for recovering from illness, promoting prohealth and fitness. These poses can help stabilize, strengthen, and refresh your body, leaving you feeling rejuvenated after your practice.