So what’s a yogi to do? Plenty. While waking up with a sinus infection may make you groan and pull the covers over your head, on your yoga mat you’ll find relief and support for rocking the rest of your day.
If you have time for only one thing, do the right thing and put your legs up the wall. This pose, called Viparita Karani in Sanskrit, is supportive to the immune system and triggers the parasympathetic nervous system – the rest and relax response. While triggering the sympathetic nervous system has complex effects on inflammation and immunity – sometimes enhancing, sometimes suppressing – the parasympathetic nervous system is wholly supportive of effective immune function andreducing inflammation. Whether you use a bolster under your low back or snug your behind up to the wall and extend your legs, you’ll get all the benefits of inverting with hardly any effort and lots of relaxation.
More time? Start with some conscious breathing. Breathing is the problem, you say? Two simple yoga practices can help clear that up. First, nasal irrigation can mechanically clear some of the uglies out of your head. A neti pot with a mild salt solution is the easiest way to accomplish this, but I’ve used paper coffee cups in a pinch. Always use filtered or distilled water. Warm water, tested on the inside of your wrist is best.
Once you’ve rinsed some of the offending mucous free, alternate nostril breathing, or Nadi Shodhana, can help to equalize the pressure and maintain a clear head. Even three rounds of alternate nostril breathing can have noticeable effects on air flow and steadiness of mind.
Finally, don’t plan a super sweaty, bendy, challenging practice. A few simple twists, chest openers, shoulder openers will do wonders. For a simple and effective sequence, move with your breath between Cobra and Child’s Pose with your arms out, fluidly, up to 10 times. This sequence will pump your lymphatic system, open your breathing muscles and massage everything in between.
The next time you wake up with a head full of uglies and feeling like a Hanuman play-toy, you’ll have a few more and effective options than resorting to over-used antibiotics. Take your power over your health and well-being seriously and roll out your mat!