It’s that time of year again when it seems inevitable that you'll catch a cold or get the flu. My three-year-old son recently had a bummer of a cold with a never-ending cough. Being pregnant with twins, still teaching yoga, running errands, and preparing things for the nursery and my delivery—the last thing I wanted was to catch Timothy’s nasty bug.
In addition to making sure I washed my hands religiously, kept my fingers away from my face, drank lots of water and ginger lemon tea, got plenty of rest, and kept eating a healthy, nutrient-dense diet, I also incorporated these three yoga poses into my daily routine to keep me healthy, strong, and cold-free.
Yoga is an incredible low impact workout that increases the circulation of lymph, a fluid that moves through the body picking up bacteria and viruses, filtering them out through the lymph nodes. Many yoga poses directly stimulate the lymphatic system and, done regularly, help keep us healthy. Also, when we practice yoga, we take deep, full, diaphragmatic breaths, which keeps our lungs strong and our bodies oxygenated. When we get congested, it’s usually because of stagnant lymph and/or weak lungs or poor circulation. Yoga gets our blood flowing, our hearts pumping, our bones strong, our lymphatic system working top notch, all while with our stress levels. The more stressed out we are the more likely it is we will get run down and not take great care of ourselves, becoming more vulnerable to getting sick.
You don’t have to be a yoga aficionado or take hour-long classes to reap the benefits. You can do these poses anytime, anywhere. Try to perform them three to four times a week to stay healthy and cold/flu-free all winter long. Hold each pose for five to eight deep full breaths, and finish with some alternate nostril breathing before a brief relaxation.
Cobra pose is great for opening up the lungs and activating the thymus gland located at the center of the chest. I love this pose during the winter months when we tend to hunch our shoulders up to our ears and compress our lungs. In cobra we take deep, full breaths, and stretch open the front body. Start lying on your belly, place your hands on the floor a little forward of your shoulders. Press the hands in to the mat, engage your abdominals and lift your chest up. Make sure you're not feeling any pinching in the lower back, lengthen your legs out of your hips and keep your buttocks relaxed.
2. Shoulder stand.
Inversions increase the passive circulation of lymph. Shoulder stand is known as the queen of the asanas and helps stimulate the thyroid gland. Start lying on your back and use your abdominals to lift your legs overhead into a plow pose. Lace your hands behind your neck and shrug your shoulders to your ears until you come off of the cervical curve of your spine and on to the back of your head. Use your abdominals to lift your legs up to the sky and place your hands on your lower back for support. If this is too challenging or you have neck issues, you can lie with your legs up a wall and get the same benefits.
3. Seated Spinal Twist
Twists and hip openers activate the spleen and lymph nodes in the armpits and groin. These organs are production sites for immune cells and seated spinal twist targets all. Sit tall with your left knee bent and foot underneath you to the right side of the right hip. Place the right foot outside the left knee; place the left elbow around the knee, using the abdominals to twist to the right. Keep the right hip anchored to the floor and you’ll feel a stretch in the outer hip. Every inhalation, grow taller; every exhalation, twist deeper. Repeat on the opposite side.
Once you’ve done all the poses, sit tall in a comfortable seat with your eyes closed. Close the right nostril and breathe in through the left side, then close the left nostril and breathe out through the right. Close the left nostril, breathe in through the right and out through the left. Continue alternate nostril breathing for two to three minutes. Lie down on your back and take a rest.