The pollen vortex has sucked me in, swirled me around, and tossed me back and forth a few times for good measure before spitting me out again. In short, seasonal allergies have made me their b*tch. Itchy eyes, snotty nose, swollen sinuses, coughs, sniffles, wheezes… there is no Neti pot, herbal tea, bee pollen, local honey, or over the counter allergy med on this beautifully blooming earth that can save me.
Thus, I find myself turning my focus towards yoga. Again. Here are some asanas, or poses, that can help to relieve some seasonal allergy symptoms. Good luck!
Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhana) – This breathing technique helps calm the mind, enhance rest and relaxation, and support the circulatory and respiratory systems.
Begin in a comfortable seated position. Place the left hand to your left knee, palm facing upward. Bring the right pointer finger and middle finger to the space between your eyebrows, also known as your “third eye.” Seal your lips, inhale and exhale through your nose. Close the right nostril with your thumb, and inhale through the left nostril. Close the left nostril using your ring finger (both nostrils are now sealed), pause for a moment, and lift the thumb exhaling through the right nostril. Repeat for 10 rounds of breath.
Seated Side Stretch – This stretch gently releases the intercostal muscles (the muscles between the ribs) which can become overworked and exhausted due to wheezing and coughing. Their primary job is to help expand and shrink the size of your chest cavity as you breathe.
Begin seated in either Sukhasana (easy pose, aka: criss-cross applesauce) or Vajrasana (thunderbolt pose, aka: sitting on your feet). Reach arms overhead on your inhale. Exhale, fold to the right, bringing your right fingertips to the floor. Keep the sitz bones grounded, avoiding letting the left hip lift. Stay here for five breaths. Repeat to the left.
Cow Pose (Bitilasana) – Stretches the front side of the body and abdominal muscles, which can get tight and sore with constant coughing.
Start on hands and knees with a flat back or in “tabletop” position. Hands should be beneath the shoulders and knees hip-width distance apart. As you inhale, lift your heart and tailbone towards the sky, allowing your belly to drop towards the floor. Exhale, returning to a neutral spine. Repeat 10 times.
Supported Shoulderstand (Salamba Sarvangasana) – Helps to improve drainage and open nasal passages. Hold for one minute or less to avoid creating sinus pressure.
Lay on your back with arms alongside your torso, palms down. Bend your knees and plant your feet on the floor about hip-width distance apart (approximately two fists between your feet). Press your shoulders and palms into the floor, while hugging the knees into your chest (feet will no longer remain on the ground). As your tailbone and pelvis begin to lift from the mat, bend your elbows and bring your hands to the back of your torso (try to keep the elbows drawing towards one another, and in line with the shoulders. Raise your pelvis so that it is directly over the shoulders and the torso is perpendicular to the floor. Begin to straighten the legs, extending your heels towards the ceiling. Flex your toes towards your shins and squeeze legs together. To avoid pressure on the cervical spine, push your shoulders into the floor so that the back of your neck floats away from the floor. Gaze towards the chest, making sure not to turn the head to either side. Stay here for 5-10 breaths.
Plow Pose (Halasana) – Releases muscles in the back of the neck and base of the skull, which helps to loosen and clear drainage.
From Sarvangasana, bend at the hips and allow your feet to move towards the ground overhead. You can continue to press hands into the back of your torso, or you can release your hands from the back and stretch the arms out behind you on the floor, palms down. Another option is to interlace your fingers behind your back and press your first into the floor. Stay here 5-10 breaths. When you’re ready to move out of the pose, bring hands to your back and lift back into Svarganasana. Lower on to your back, slowly and with control, one vertebra at a time.
Fish Pose (Matsyasana) – Opens the chest and neck, while stimulating the thymus gland. The thymus gland is located behind the sternum and between your lungs, and produces T cells which contribute to the body’s immune system.
Begin seated with knees bent and feet planted about hip-width distance apart. Keeping the legs where they are, move to a reclined position with your elbows beneath your shoulders and hands reaching towards your feet (forearms should be parallel and hugged closely in towards your body. On an inhale, press into the palms and begin to lift your ribcage towards the sky. You can look towards the ceiling, and if it isn’t uncomfortable for your neck, begin to drop the crown of the head towards the floor. Eventually your head might actually rest on the ground. This pose is traditionally done with the legs in Padmasana (Lotus Pose), but for most people it’s most comfortable with the knees bent, or legs straight and toes flexed towards the shins. Stay here for five breaths. On your last exhale, lower your torso and head to the ground and hug your knees into your chest.