Using yoga to fight sickness

Words by Samantha Ickes

Happy December, Kent State students! Though today’s high is a rainy 60 degrees, cold weather is quickly approaching. I’ve already begun to hear the chorus of coughs and sneezes while I’m at work, while I’m Christmas shopping and while I’m sitting in class.

I’ve been trying my best to stay away from sick people and preventing illness by drinking plenty of water, washing my hands frequently and keeping my distance. But sometimes getting a cold is inevitable, especially when one of your family members or roommates gets sick.

Believe it or not, yoga has poses for everything: headaches, digestion, hangovers and, yes, even sickness.

If you’re feeling under the weather, put on some PJ’s and grab a pillow and your yoga mat. Here are just a few poses you can try when you’re feeling a little under the weather:

1. Reclining twist: This pose will help stretch your back and legs if your body aches when you’re sick. Lay with your back flat against the mat. Bend your knees and hug them close to your chest. Gently turn your knees to one side of the body. Practice deep breathing as you lay in this position. Rest in this pose for one to two minutes before switching to the other side.

In between sides you may want to draw circles with your knees as you hug them into your chest. This will gently massage the spine for back pain relief.

2. Bound angle pose: This pose will stretch your inner thighs and open the chest to relax the nervous system. Bring your knees back toward your chest. Open your knees as if to touch the floor. The bottoms of your feet should touch. This pose is similar to butterfly except you are laying flat on your back instead of sitting upright.

If this position strains your inner thighs too much, feel free to support your legs by placing folded blankets under your knees or thighs. Stay in this pose for two to three minutes, breathing and relaxing.

3. Supported bridge: This pose will help stretch the neck, legs and spine. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground as close to your tailbone as possible. Push up with your feet and raise your pelvis up to create space between your back and the mat. Grab your pillow and slide it under your back to add some extra support. Keep your arms along your side.

Stay in this pose for a minimum of two minutes. Resting in this pose will really help the spine relax and relieve sinus pressure.

4. Widespread forward fold: This pose relaxes the mind while stretching the legs and back. Resting your head on your pillow will help relieve pressure causing a headache, too. Sit upright on the mat with your legs stretched out at an angle, creating a V-shape. How wide or narrow the v is depends on what feels good for your body.

Lay a pillow in between your legs and bend forward to rest your upper body on the pillow. Rest in this position for two to three minutes while breathing deeply. This pose promotes relaxation.

5. Supported child’s pose: This is a rest pose to help your body relax when you’re feeling under the weather. Sit on your knees with them spread about hip width apart. Your big toes should touch behind you. Bring your pillow in front of your knees and lay forward on top of the pillow. You can keep your arms at your sides or place them on the pillow as well. Hold for at least three minutes while breathing deeply.

6. Supported savasana: This is another resting pose to promote relaxation. Transition onto your back with your legs spread slightly apart. Bring your pillow under the upper part of your body and relax, breathing in and out. Keep your hands on your belly and feel it rise and fall with each breath. Lay in this position as long as you need to.

To create a full sequence you can add some other poses we’ve learned including butterfly, cat/cow and legs up the wall.

Drink warm beverages and eat soup. Drinking or eating something hot when you’re sick can provide instant relief and comfort for a sore throat or congestion.

While this is a well-known remedy for when you’re sick, it’s important to avoid highly caffeinated beverages like your morning coffee or a can of Pepsi. These kinds of drinks can leave you feeling dehydrated.

Instead, try herbal green tea or chamomile tea. Adding honey to the tea can help soothe a sore throat and act as a cough suppressant.

Take a hot bath. When I feel sick, even if it’s just a migraine, a hot bath always makes me feel better. Try adding some aromatherapy or epsom salts to your bath or shower.

Village Naturals Therapy’s aches and pain epsom salt is my favorite to use when I’m feeling sick or just have sore muscles. The salts are also scented with eucalyptus, spearmint and menthol for relaxation and to help open up the sinuses. Also, it’s only $5 for a bag of it.

Hydra Soap sells a shower burst specifically targeting cold and flu. I recently heard of this product and have yet to try it, but the essential oils used to make the burst is a natural way to open the sinuses and relieve congestion when you’re feeling sick.

Get a vitamin C boost. Loading up on vitamin C can boost your immune system and help you get better faster. Eating oranges, red or green bell peppers, strawberries or kiwis can get vitamin C in your system to help fight colds. Vitamin C supplements like Spring Valley, Airborne Immune Support Supplement or VitaFusion can also help boost the immune system.

As winter progresses, make sure to stay hydrated, wash your hands frequently and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze to prevent illness and stay healthy this winter.

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