I have always made grand claims of being the BEST at being sick! What a claim to make, good for you Charlie… But I really do feel as though whenever a cold comes knocking at my door, I have turned it around and sent it on its way before it even got a proper look in. My big trick here is that I have zero problem resting the body.
Some people find it hard to press pause and want to be the hero and push through. Well sir, I am no hero and I am going to bed. When the body asks for rest, rest. Look at animals in nature. When they are sick, they sleep and fast and we require no different to heal.
Once the body starts to regain a little energy, I then start to find those gentle yoga asanas that are going to open up where there obstruction, apply pressure where there is tension and calm the mind when these is unease.
A side note! Coughs and colds, usually come with a side of head pain and recently I just discovered a little trick to dispel a headache in seconds. Take a drop of peppermint essential oil into the palm of one hand and then rub the hands together.
Cup your hands around your nose and inhale as deeply as you can three times through the nose. Next, rub the hands into the temples and at the back of the neck. This can be quite intense but it will dispel your headache in seconds. Much quicker than any over counter drug can manage.
This article is going to introduce a gentle and restorative practice in order to navigate healing and manage the symptoms of colds and coughs. The aim is to open the chest, lungs and throat and encourage circulation into those areas that are congested.
By creating space, mucus and obstruction can dislodge and this sequence will also move the body in a way that promotes respiratory functioning and boost the body’s resilience so it can fight back.
Even gentle yoga can seem a little overwhelming when you are suffering, so if it is rest the body is asking for, I insist that you listen and put this article safely to the side. Once your energy returns, the information below is going to boost your recovery and ease your suffering body and mind.
Infographic: 8 Yoga Poses For Cold & Dry Cough
Mountain Pose - Tadasana
Start standing with the feet parallel to one another. Ground down through all four corners of the feet and open up the chest and close the eyes. Activate the thighs by lifting up through the kneecaps, draw the lower belly in and drop the tailbone down. Gently draw the chin back towards the centreline of the body to lengthen the back of the neck and relax the shoulders down.
Use this simple standing pose to become aware of the body. Take full breaths in and ground down into the feet. To an outside observer, it doesn’t look like there is much going on in this standing posture, but there are so many micro movements that you can engage to turn on the strength of the body.
Actively hug the legs towards the midline of the body, spread the fingertips wide, lengthen the spine, open the chest and continue to create space between the shoulders and ears.
Standing Forward Bend Variation - Uttanasana
Start to reach the arms up to the sky and then begin to hinge at the hips bringing the torso down. Hands are going to extend forward as you make your way down into a Standing Forward Bend. Continue to lengthen the spine to deepen the bend and allow the hands to fall down towards the mat.
Release the head and neck, along with any tension you are holding on to. Bring the hands around the back of the body and interlace the fingers at the lower spine. Start to bend the knees softly and reach the hands up and over towards the front of the mat. This is going to open the chest, while compressing the belly.
This posture helps to ease stress and anxiety in the mind, while increasing circulation and blood flow to the head, the nose and chest. This is going to assist with cough and cold symptoms, by creating space for congestion to move through.
Downward Facing Dog - Adho Mukha Svanasana
Start to walk the hands towards the front of the mat and ground down through all ten fingers and the heels of the palm. Stretch the heels down towards the earth and send the hips up to come into Downward Facing Dog. Melt your heels down towards the ground.
Use this pose to stretch the entire body from the heels through to the crown of the head. Press firmly into the palms, lengthening the spine and drawing the shoulders back and away from the ears, creating space at the side bodies, and into the armpits.
Sphinx Pose - Salamba Bhujangasana
From Downward facing Dog, come forward onto the toes and move through a High Plank to come down to lying on the belly. To prepare for Sphinx Pose bring the forearms out in front, bringing the elbows in line and underneath the shoulders, palms pressing firmly down, fingers spread wide.
Press into the forearms and drop the shoulders down away from the ears to create space between the ears. Energetically pull the elbows back towards the body, opening the chest. Take the gaze forward, lengthening the back of the neck.
This pose provides a mild and therapeutic backbend while opening the chest and the lungs. continue to press into the arms and open up the chest and heart, taking full breaths in. Stretching the chest in this way is helping to create more space in the respiratory system.
Seated Forward Bend - Paschimottanasana
Come down to sitting and send the legs out long in front. Remove the flesh from underneath the sitting bones to lengthen the spine and reach the hands up towards the sky, lengthening the side bodies. Start to extend the arms forward, stretching from the tailbone up the spine, eventually releasing the hands to the ground, to the legs or to the feet.
The posture lengthens the entire underside of the body from the heels, up the back of the legs and the spine, through to the crown of the head, while also compressing the abdominal organs and stimulating the digestive system.
Bridge Pose - Setu Bandhasana
Slowly lower down to lying on the back bringing the hands down by the sides of the body. Bend the knees and walk the feet back towards the glutes here, making sure legs will be parallel with one another. Pull the spine down and ensure that the sacrum is connecting down to the mat.
Press into the heels and lift the hips to come into Bridge Pose. Walk the shoulders underneath one another and if there is room, interlace the hands underneath the lower spine, pressing the forearms into the mat.
Bridge Pose is going to open the chest and send the chest towards the chin in order to compress. Continue to press into the heels to work the hips higher and take deep breaths to open and stretch the lungs. This is going to help remove any obstruction that is causing a cough.
Headstand Pose - Shirshasana
Come onto all fours and bring the elbows down to the mat, keeping them shoulder width apart. Grab for opposite elbows to find the correct alignment for the base and then keeping the elbows where they are, release the elbows and interlace the hands in front, creating a triangle shape with the arms.
The crown of the head is going to come down to mat and rest in the cupped, interlaced hands. Start to lift the hips up and walk the feet in towards the body.
Come up on to the toes, sending the hips a little higher. Start to press into the forearms and shoulders and continue to walk the feet in until the hips are as close to the head as is comfortable. Start to bend one knee, bringing it in towards the chest and taking the toes up off the mat.
Repeat with the other leg, making sure to keep the hips over the head. Find the balance and then start to straighten the knees, sending the legs up, coming into a Headstand Pose. Continue to press into the forearms to take some of the weight off of the head.
Pick one point to focus on for balance and then focus on even, steady breaths.
The compression to the crown of the head in this posture is inviting fresh oxygen and blood flow down into the area, boosting circulation and helping to fight against coughs and colds.
Child's Pose - Balasana
Come out of Headstand Pose by bending the knees and slowly lowering back down, pulling the knees in towards the chest, dropping one foot down and then the other. Take the knees down to the mat and release the hands down by the sides of the body. Bring the forehead down to the mat for Child’s Pose.
Allow the forehead to connect down to the mat and bring awareness to the breath. Surrender completely, letting the full weight of the body rest down and allow the body to come back into balance.
Featured Video: Yoga For Cold & Dry Cough
Does yoga relieve headaches?
When you have a cold or your head is pounding, yoga might not be the most appealing, but what if I told you, you could stretch the body and ease your suffering without even leaving your bed? Even if it is a migraine you are currently trying to navigate, studies have shown that yoga can reduce the severity of the episode and the need for medication.
Legs-up-the-Wall Pose – Viparita Karani
Lying on your back, bring you hips as close to the wall as you can and then send them up high. If the hamstrings are tight, you can slide a cushion under the hips and bring them slightly away from the wall and rotate them slightly in. Hold this pose for five minutes or as long as is comfortable.
Supported Reclined Bound Angle Pose – Supta Baddha Konasana
Grab a pillow and align it to the vertical length of your spine. Grab two more and have them under the knees to take some of the intensity out of the hips and groins and use this supported variation to surrender the body. Have the head resting back and the chest opening. This is going to create space in the lungs and make room for any cough induced congestion.
Supported Bridge Pose – Setu Bandhasana
This is one pose I have used multiple times in bed, usually when I’ve been travelling and have had nowhere to roll out my mat, but it also great to practice when suffering from sickness and getting out of bed is a hard no.
It helps if your mattress is a little more on the firm side, but the aim is to open the chest and send fresh blood to the head.
This will help to clear the sinuses and at the same time, boost the immune system through activation of the thymus gland. For this supported variation, slide a pillow underneath the sacrum and melt the hips down, focusing more on the opening of the chest.
Can yoga help with a cold?
There are many variables that can trigger a cold and although they usually aren’t so life threatening they can leave you feeling exhausted and depleted.
Yoga can offer a holistic means of intervention as it works to balance the nervous systems and by drawing fresh blood, specifically the white blood cells, to the head and throat, the sinuses are able to decongest.
Standing Forward Bend – Uttanasana
A simple forward bend is going to directly send a oxygenated blood straight into the head and relieve pressure, clear the sinuses, while recharging the nervous system.
Camel Pose – Ushtrasana
This posture is a dramatic heart opener that stretches the lungs and the chest and creates more room in the respiratory system. Take deep, full breaths in order to get the most benefits in regards to clearing blockages that are contributing to your cold.
Fish Pose – Matsyasana
Another posture to open the chest, lungs and throat. As the body stretches, mucus that is causing obstruction is dislodged so it can be expelled from the body.
Restorative yoga for illness
Yoga is an alternative means of fighting many types of (dis-ease) in the body. It can help to boost immunity, help with respiratory ailments and manage headaches. When combined with conscious breathing, you have a gentle way of navigating actual healing, as opposed to treating symptoms with band aid pharmaceuticals.
Sometimes the body just needs to rest and when that is the message the body is relaying, then rest away dear friend.
However, if you do feel as though you have a little energy to scrape off the bottom of the barrel, a little restorative yoga might be all that you need to boost your healing and immune system so you can get back to business as usual.
Child’s Pose – Balasana
You can never go wrong with a gentle Child’s Pose, even if you are at deaths door! Ensure that forehead to ground connection and apply a little more pressure than usual, especially if you are suffering from any kind of congestion in the head.
Continue to apply this pressure for a few rounds of breath and then take the forehead left and right, massaging into the scalp. This is going to help relieve tension and while calming the mind.
Reclining Hero Pose – Supta Virasana
This pose can be done with the support of props to make it as restorative as possible. Have a cushion or rolled up blanket vertically along the spine, and then bring additional support for underneath the head. This posture will open the chest but without the intensity of the full variation.
Supine Spinal Twist – Supta Matsyendrasana
This posture gently opens across the chest and the shoulders, creating space in the lungs, while also releasing stress and tension that you are harbouring around being unwell.
For the body to heal, dropping stress and anxiety is essential, so we work with poses like simple spinal twists as they have the power ease both the physical and mental bodies.
Coughs and colds trigger congestion that we already have backed up in the system. They actually provide an opportunity to expel as much of this obstruction from the body as we can, so taking pharmaceuticals is only going to suppress and bury this lymphatic stagnation further.
Ideally you want to encourage this mucus to come out of the body and yoga is one way we can do exactly that.
This article has encouraged gentle movement in the body that is going to create space and open up the respiratory system to help tackle coughs and colds. The sequence is simple, making it suitable for all levels of yogi practitioner, and manageable if sickness is hitting hard.
Combining conscious breathing is going to help further de-stress the immune system, making the body more resilient and able to fight back. Move with ease and use this opportunity to show yourself some love. Thank the body for its resilience and it will thank you with a speedy recovery.