Flu season is in full swing and there is never a good time to get sick in New York City (or anywhere for that matter!), as we juggle multiple projects, jobs, kids and social gatherings.
With this year's flu season is one of the worst in recent years, I prescribe a restorative yoga practice for my patients to provide extra support for the immune system, adrenal function and nervous system. Studies show that yoga, more so than a walk through nature or relaxing music, has tangible positive effects on our health, such as healthy altered gene expression.
How else can you avoid the flu this year? Get plenty of rest! In addition to boosting immunity, sleep provides a host of benefits, including improved memory performance, cellular regeneration and better mood. Stress has been shown to weaken the body, but can be managed by a regular yoga and meditation practice.
Here are four key yoga poses to help boost your immunity this cold and flu season.
Legs Up The Wall (Viparita Karani)
This should be our go-to pose to ground the nervous system, this one will boost immunity and keep stress at bay. You will feel a sense of calm and well-being, as your body pumps oxygenated blood to your legs, reviving tired muscles from hours of sitting too much.
If your hamstrings are tight, bend your knees and bring your seat away from the wall to allow your body to relax into this pose.
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Use this pose to stimulate the thymus, an organ located behind the chest bone that is responsible for the growth of T-cells, your body's first response to the cold or flu.
Press down through the tops of your feet; the power of this backbend should come from your legs. Pull your chest forward as you soften your shoulders down and back. Hold for 2 to 3 breaths as you deepen into the backbend.
Cobra Pose will leave you feeling revitalized and will also provide a boost of energy after a long day of sitting in the same position.
Supported Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
An invigorating restorative pose, supported Fish Pose opens up the heart and lungs, breaking up congestion in the lungs and sinuses. When we sit hunched over our desks all day, our breath becomes shallow and stagnant.
This is one of the best poses to access a deep diaphragmatic breath, and helps balance an agitated nervous system. Make sure you place your block at the bottom tips of your shoulder blades, and that your neck has a gentle natural curve with sufficient support under the second block.
Downward Dog With Block (Adho Mukha Svanasana)
Downward Dog is the go-to emergency pose when things feel overwhelming and out of control. A block under your forehead adds to a feeling of calm and restoration. This pose increases your circulation yet still provides grounded energy.
Bonus: It allows congested sinuses to drain. Press down through all of your knuckles and spread your fingers to create a firm base of support. To create stability, access the strength in your arms and legs and encourage them to hug towards your midline. Soften between your shoulder blades to encourage the shoulders down and back.
Tight hamstrings? Reach your seat high toward the sky, and put a slight bend in your knees. Take 5-10 deep breaths, allow your mood to shift and notice the day to melt away.
Photos courtesy of the author