Hot Yoga 1, Nasty Cold 0
With autumn approaching, it is time to take action against the common cold. According to B.K.S. Iyengar's book Light on Yoga you can fight and prevent colds using the following yoga postures:
1. Head stand, where you support your body with your forearms and top of your head on the ground while lifting the rest of the body vertically in a straight line.
Make sure your nasal passages are not blocked when you practice it, as it will inhibit your breathing and balance in the pose. Don't do it if you have got a severe cold, as your body has to have time to heal naturally.
2. Shoulder stand, where you lift your body upwards while supporting your torso with your arms with your shoulders, neck and head on the ground.
3. Forward bends, where you keep your legs straight on the floor and bend forwards aiming to touch the floor or your shins with your forehead.
4. The "fish" and the "tortoise" are also two poses that target the throat by bending the neck backwards and forwards.
5. Ujjayi breathing, a form of conscious breathing focusing on the throat, as though you are fogging the mirror. It creates fire in your system to burn toxins.
If this sounds all too complicated to try at home on your own, the best solution is to join a yoga class where, under the watchful eyes of an instructor, you can do all these and more yoga poses safely. Ideally, yoga in a heated room can combine the benefits of the asanas (postures) with warmth to help clear your airways and boost your immune system.
I recently went to a yoga class called "Space and Flow", a Vinyasa flow yoga class in a heated room at Indaba Yoga in Marylebone. Led by martial artist, dancer, yoga instructor and body worker Raphan, this class combines dance (flowing from one pose to the next) and yoga while sweating all those nasty toxins and viruses out of your system.
I had a cold at the time and had had troubles shifting it. Ninety minutes later, I had noticed that I didn't feel as congested as when I started the class, with the added bonus that my whole body had gotten a good workout.
You can choose the level at which you want to practice this type of yoga; the general rule is that yoga is an individual practice and what matters is your personal experience and any insights you gain from it.
The poses that are recommended to fight colds are challenging though: always be careful when performing head stands and ask for help. You can also ask for a simplified version of any pose especially if you have any injuries.
The shoulder stand, when practiced regularly, can help eradicate the common cold with the added benefit of providing a good way to manage anxiety and insomnia.
According to Doctor Timothy Mccall in his article "Cold Comfort" for Yoga Journal, a regular yoga practice can help boost the immune system and ultimately prevent or shorten the duration of colds. The stress hormone cortisol can lower the immune system and the calming effect of yoga can decrease the levels of cortisol in the body.
Cultures like Russians, Fins, Swedes and Turks have used hot baths to ward off colds for thousands of years. Now, hot temperatures combined with yogic practice produce really powerful results.
Practising yoga in a heated room can magnify the beneficial effects of yoga on the immune system as sweating rids of toxins faster. A toxic body is more prone to illness; toxins are waste products from the body that need to be eliminated.
Hot yoga may not be a quick fix as our bodies react differently to different stimuli, but it worked a treat for me and it is worth a try next time you start sniffling.
Do you want to share your HOT yoga experience? How did it help you? Leave a comment below.
Visit Body in Balance to read more of Paola's posts.
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