It’s the time of the year and many of us are finding ourselves with the sniffles or sore throats. Beat the symptoms of a common cold with these yoga asanas, which help to balance the sympathetic (activity, or “fight or flight” response) and parasympathetic (rest and relaxation) systems. Anything that affects this balance, whether coming from the inside (like hunger, the need for oxygen, fear) or the outside (like temperature change, movement, watching a movie), requires a change from one state of balance, such as hunger, to another, such as digestion.
Because our immune systems consist of white blood cells that circulate in the blood and organs of the thymus located in the chest (above the heart and the spleen in right upper abdomen) you can help stop the common cold by a shoulder stand to draw blood to your head and throat, which brings more white blood cells to the areas where they are needed and helps relieve sinus congestion, Sandie West, CEO of Creative Chakra Spa & Yoga Studio, an oceanfront, 5,500-square-foot holistic spa and yoga studio in Marina Del Rey, California, tells us.
One class a week can help to lower cortisol levels (i.e. stress levels) in the body, but, no matter what your yogic skill level, practicing these three basic poses can help to alleviate those unwanted common cold symptoms. Read on to discover the benefits and basic instructions of how to get into these poses from West. Give it a try and let us know how you feel!
Shoulder Stand (Sarvangasana)
Benefits: Brings blood to the head and throat, thereby relieving sinus congestion and stress, and strengthens the immune functions of the hormonal system.
1. Lie on your mat, press shoulders down and draw the shoulder blades toward the waist.
2. Turn the upper arms out and extend them toward the legs, bring elbows close to trunk.
3. Move the back ribs in and bend the legs with feet close to the buttocks.
4. With palms up press elbows into the floor, exhale and lift the trunk, bending legs over the abdomen.
5. Support the back with the hands and raise the trunk and legs higher, bringing the chest toward the chin; take the hands lower down and press the back ribs forward. Straighten the legs up until they are vertical and with the help of the hands raise the shoulder blades and extend the trunk up, lift the hips and stretch the legs.
Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
Benefits: Opens up the throat and lungs, increasing circulation while helping to break up congestion. Stimulates the thyroid gland in the base of the throat, helping to regulate metabolism. Stimulates the pineal gland in the center of the brain, releasing melatonin brings a relaxed response to the nervous system. Increases blood flow to the thymus and the spleen helping white blood cells target infection.
1. Lie flat on the floor with your palms pressed against sides of your thighs.
2. Shift your bodyweight to your elbows and raise your head and trunk.
3. Arch your chest and lower the crown of your head to the floor, creating a “bridge” between your buttocks and head; expand your chest as much as possible.
4. To come out of the pose, place your body weight on your elbows again and raise your head gently.
Yoga Nidra (Deep Relaxation)
Benefits: Relieves strain and tightness of the lower back. This asana massages the abdominal organs and digestive tract, increasing circulation and pushing the contents of the bowel along, helping to relieve constipation. A powerful ancient meditation technique, it is also a scientific way to eliminate the root cause of all the negativities. This asana also allows your heart to rest deeply and reduces stress, helping to strengthen the immune system. It is also helpful in balancing the hormonal system while stimulating the pineal, thymus and thyroid glands, which increases circulation into all major organs.
1. Lie on your back in a comfortable supine position with your arms and legs extended, about a foot-and-a-half apart, and your arms a few inches away from your body with your palms up.
2. Close your eyes, breathing through your nose and begin relaxing.
3. Bring your awareness to your right leg and foot. Tense the leg. Lift it off the floor a few inches. Tense a little tighter and let it drop. Roll it from side to side and just forget about it. Repeat with the left leg.
4. Now, inhale and tense your pelvis and buttocks; squeeze the tension out. Most of us hold a lot of stress in this area, which can lead to disorders in the reproductive system as well as in the pelvis and hips.
5. Inhale and fill your stomach with air. Hold it for a few moments, then release through your mouth – just let it gush out.
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This is one of our favorite articles. It was originally published on January 2, 2016.