Find Relief with Yoga Postures
Nancy Osborne, RYT300
Allergy symptoms like sneezing, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes can be a challenge during allergy season and may be quite incapacitating to some allergy sufferers. You may be able to keep yourself from drowning in symptoms by avoiding what triggers your allergies – usually pollens, dust and mold carried on the wind. Most people do not have the luxury or desire to stay inside every day of allergy season, so they might need a bit of help sorting through what else they can do to avoid the symptoms.
Being a yoga instructor (RYT300), I have helped many people achieve allergy symptom relief by practicing specific yoga asanas (poses or postures). Regular practice may help keep symptoms at bay. The poses below will specifically help with head and sinus congestion. Some poses will help with movement in the lymph system, which works hand in hand with the immune system. Because an allergic reaction is the result of an immune system that is functioning but improperly responding to an allergen, improving immune function may help relieve symptoms.
If you’re new to yoga, please select only poses that feel safe for you to do. If you are a veteran Yogi, carry on as usual and, perhaps, spend a bit more time on the asanas listed below.
Sometimes a video is worth a thousand words
Pick 1 or 2 Breathing Methods from below https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxEqooqgCEs
Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana): Find a comfortable seat on the floor or a chair. Using right hand thumb, block off the right nostril with thumb and breathe in through the left. Block left nostril with ring finger and breathe out through right nostril. Breathe in through right, block, and out through left. In left, out right. Repeat 3-4 times.
Here’s the sequence simplified:
This should be very relaxing and begin to clear sinuses, perhaps unplug ears. Because this asana is so relaxing, you’ll be tempted to keep doing it, but keep to 3 or 4 and you should feel results.
Yoga Breath (Bhastrika) https://www.yogajournal.com/videos/bhastrika-pranayama-practice
Find a comfortable seat on the floor or a chair. Begin by noticing your own breath. Take several normal breaths and then begin to deepen the breaths. Next, use belly muscles to make it seem like you are breathing into your belly. On the same inhale bring the breath up to the diaphragm (belly still extended) and then into your chest. Try to exhale very slowly, trying to release belly first, then diaphragm and then chest. With practice the exhales will become longer than the inhales. Let your nostrils flare as you practice. Stop if you feel any dizziness or anxiety. Repeat this breath no more than 3-5 times.
Skull Shining Breath (Kapalabhati Pranayama) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6bnFlVkKrE
Kapalabhati consists of a series of rapid, forceful exhalations and smaller, passive inhalations. This will clear out the nasal passages where allergens lurk and help detox the entire respiratory system. Only do a few for starters, as this exercise may cause light-headedness.
If you are a veteran Yogi, by all means practice your inversions – handstand, shoulder stand, standing forward bend, bridge, etc. If new to yoga, try legs-up-the-wall or pick a couple from the list below – gentler and more relaxing types of inversions.
Legs-Up-The-Wall (Viparita Karani) https://www.wellandgood.com/good-sweat/legs-up-the-wall/
Viparita Karani is refreshing and relaxing. It is one of my favorite places to hang out for awhile. Having feet above the heart is so good for the entire body. If you are a long time Yogi you’ll know exactly what to do. Everyone else should grab a bolster or 2-3 pillows or cushions.
Place the cushions next to a wall. Sit on the floor and start to turn toward the wall, eventually bringing your legs vertically up the wall, your rear a few inches from the wall and lie flat on your back. While here, try taking slow and methodic breaths with the exhale being longer than the inhale. If you need a softer place to rest, use your bed with legs up the headboard or wall – sweet deliciousness!
Downward Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) https://www.yogajournal.com/videos/downward-facing-dog-pose
Come to the floor on your hands and knees (Table pose), knees directly below hips and hands directly below shoulders. Pull in your tummy and imagine each vertebrae have space around it. Take a big inhale and, as you exhale, lifting the sitting bones toward the ceiling. From the inner ankles draw the inner legs up into the groin. Firm the outer arms, which are now the main support, and press the bases of the index fingers actively into the floor. Firm shoulder blades against the back (there a little indentations right where the shoulder blades are supposed to live). There should be a straight line from wrists to shoulders to sitting bones of the bottom, which is not up in the air. Bring heels as close to the floor as able. https://www.yogajournal.com/practice/downward-facing-dog
Child’s Pose (Balanasana) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=33L6oog4sbY
Balasana is a delightfully refreshing resting pose.
Kneeling on the floor, sit back on your heels and spread knees as wide as hips. Inhale and as you exhale lay your torso down between your thighs. Broaden the sacrum and lengthen your tailbone away from the pelvis.
Lay your hands on the floor alongside your torso, palms up, and release the fronts of your shoulders toward the floor. Feel how the weight of the front shoulders pulls the shoulder blades wide across your back. Place your forehead on a small cushion, block or the back of your hands.
This posture should be comfortable and comforting. Stay here for 2 or 3 minutes, feel your sinuses drain as you relax. Come out of asana by raising tailbone into Downward Facing Dog, step forward, stand up.
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uMZvZCE0vAk
Stand straight and tall. Bring your 2 big toes side by side and the next toes parallel to each other. Arms by sides, turn your palms to face your hips/thighs. Take a deep breath while bringing both arms into the air. Tuck in your gut and belly, and exhale as you bend forward. You’ll see people bending forward with their chests neatly on their thighs and their palms flat on the floor. That is accomplished with a dedicated practice! Keep your back straight and fold forward enough to have your nasal passages below your chest. Rest your hand on thighs or knees, if useful. The full stretch will come in time.
Camel Pose (Ustrasana) https://yogainternational.com/article/view/ustrasana-camel-pose
This is a difficult pose. Please do not try it if you are tight, not warmed up, or a new beginner. And, no matter what, protect your neck!
Kneel on the floor with hips knee width. Press shins and tops of feet firmly into the floor. Rest the palms of your hands on the tops of your buttocks, fingers pointing down. Lightly firm your tailbone forward, toward the pubis. Press front thighs back.
Carefully lean backwards. Hold your chin toward your breastbone. Lean back as far as you can balance and feel comfortable. If possible, move hands to heels. If possible, slowly lean head backwards.
Your head will most likely feel like it needs support. Be gentle and only stay here for 30-60 seconds.
Fish Pose (Matsyasana) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vhFdcezAyL8
Matsyasana can be a difficult posture to achieve. Remember, there is no competition- you’re just trying to drain your sinuses and relieve your headache. The point is to get your chest as high into the air as you can. Your head will naturally fall back. Let this happen in a relaxing and non-threatening way. This will open your throat and airways. Try to hold the asana for 1-2 minutes. Again, this can be done in bed if the floor is uncomfortable.
Enjoy, experiment, be gentle and kind you yourself, and have fun!