I Should Go Do Yoga....For When You're Under the Weather
Whether it’s a winter head cold or just a few too many mulled wines at the office party, ‘tis the season to feel pretty crappy sometimes. The contrast of the cold weather with indoor heating mixed with a little over-indulgence is a recipe for headaches, fever, nausea, aches and pains, so I have put together some of my favourite postures to practise at home when I’m feeling under the weather (ahem…hungover).
Grab yourself a block, if you have one (if not, a thick book will do) and a bolster or big sofa cushion/a few pillows, get into your comfies and get ready to breathe the pain away!
This posture is incredibly comforting. Bring your knees wide and your toes together. Bring your buttocks to rest down onto your heels and stretch your arms out in front of you. I am using a block here under my forehead, but you can use a block, or just rest your forehead onto the mat.
Make sure the middle of your forehead is in touch with the floor/block/book. Allow the pressure to relieve feelings of nausea, dizziness and tension in the head. Close the eyes if that feels OK and breathe strongly through the nose for 10 breaths.
When we’re sick we can store a lot of tension in our back. These postures will help bring a little more movement back to the spine, and promote fresh blood flow into the muscles along the spine. Start with your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hips, and your feet, knees & hands in two parrallel lines.
Inhale through the nose and at the same time tilt the hip bones down towards the floor, letting the belly drop & the shoulders roll back to open the chest and look forwards. As you exhale, tilt the tailbone down, round the spine, pushing up between the shoulder blades and let the head drop so the back of the neck is long. Repeat 5-10 times, matching the movement with the breath.
One of the first things to go when we’re not feeling too good is our balance. Especially if it’s alcohol-induced. To start to get the heart beating stronger & fresh blood flowing around the body to flush out any toxins, try this core-activating posture. From all-fours extend the right leg backwards and the left arm forwards so they are in a straight line in line with your torso. Press the right hand away from the floor to find space under the chest and ensure your shoulder muscles are working. Engage the core muscles (suck the lower belly in and up) and continue to breathe for 5 long and strong breaths through the nose before changing sides.
If you’re feeling up to it, you can add crunches in to this move. As you exhale, round the back and draw the knee and the fist in towards each-other under the chest, rounding the back. Inhale and extend, exhale crunch. Repeat for as many as you can.
If you’re anything like me your hips and legs will likely be feeling tight, particularly if you’re dehydrated, or if you’ve been partying in heels all night. Step the right foot forwards in line with the hands and walk it to the edge of the mat so the hands are inside the leg.
Roll onto the outer edge of the foot and bring the right hand to gently rest on the inner right thigh. Press the knee outwards and allow the hips to sink forwards and down towards the front edge of the mat until you feel a stretch in the inner thigh, groin & left hip-flexor.
If that feels OK, open the chest to the right and look over your right shoulder. Breathe for 5-10 strong breaths through the nose, before changing to the other side.
This pose lengthens the spine and stretches the back, arms, and shoulders while stimulating the immune and endocrine systems, which = fighting the baddies. Don’t perform this pose if you have any neck or spine injuries. From kneeling, place the very top of your head (not your forehead!) onto the mat in front of you, so your spine rounds. Reach the hands back towards your feet and hold onto your legs, or your feet if you can reach. Keep lifting the hips up away from your heels so you stretch out your spine. Breathe for 5 strong breaths through the nose, being careful to not let your neck become crunched up. Rest in child’s pose for as long as you need afterwards.
Forward Fold with Belly to Thighs
This posture improves blood flow to the head, improving a headache, it also compresses the internal organs, which in turn promotes fresh blood supply to the kidneys & liver which might be working overtime right now! From standing, bend your knees and bring your belly to rest onto your thighs. Wrap your arms around the back of your legs and give yourself a squeeze. Allow the head to hang heavy. The weight is slightly in the front of your feet, but not so far forwards that you feel unbalanced. Stay for 5-10 strong breaths through the nose, depending on how you feel. If you get dizzy, rest in child’s pose until you feel better.
Twists are super detoxifying which is going to help you to get rid of the nasties and feeling right as rain in no time. From seated with both legs out in front of you, bend your left leg and hug the knee to the chest. Place the foot on the outside of the right leg. Depending on how your stomach is feeling, you can do an open twist (pictured) or a close twist. For an open twist, bring the left elbow to the inside of the bent left knee, and draw the right shoulder open so you’re twisting to the right. Rest the right fingertips on the floor behind you. For a closed twist, use the opposite hand (right hand) to hug the knee to the chest, and draw the left shoulder back, twisting to the left. Breathe for 5-10 strong breaths through the nose before changing to the other side.
Restorative Forward Fold
This pose is calming and releases tension in the inner thighs and hips, as well a stimulating the kidneys. From seated with your legs out in front of you, widen your feet to a comfortable width. Walking your hands forward, stop when you feel a slight stretch. Pile up some pillows in front of you, or use a block/bolster combination as pictured so you can rest your forehead forwards. Try not to let the toes roll outwards, keep the thighs engaged slightly and the toes in the centre, pointing upwards.
Breathe here for 5-10 strong breaths through the nose, or longer if it feels good.
When we’re feeling under the weather we can tend to curl up and hide under the covers. This pose is the opposite to that, stretching the chest and the belly and stimulating the adrenals which will give you an energy boost. Lay on your back with your feet close to, but not necessarily touching, your buttocks. Line up your feet with your hips and press your feet down into the mat to feel your hips lifting. Engage your hamstrings & your buttocks slightly. Roll onto the outer edges of the shoulders so there is a dome between your shoulder blades and the mat. Interlace your fingers behind you and press your hands into the mat. Keep the engagement in the hamstrings and push the feet into the floor more.
Breathe here for 5-10 strong breaths through the nose, before releasing the fingers and gently lowering the back down onto the floor.
Shoulder Stand or Legs Up The Wall
These poses improve the circulation in the upper body, give your internal organs a rest, boost energy and aid digestion & headaches. For legs up the wall, scoot your bum close to a wall so it’s touching, then swing your legs up to rest onto the wall. Bring your heads out to your sides and relax here. If you wan to place a blanket under your head you can do that too, so you can relax fully.
For shoulder stand, lay on your back with your legs straight up in the air and your hands by your sides. Use the belly muscles and your hands to push your feet all the way over your head so you expose your back. With the elbows hugged tight into the sides, not splaying outwards, bend the elbows and bring the hands to support the back. Place your hands as high up towards your shoulders as you can. Make sure all the weight is in your elbows as you lift one foot and then the other into the air. Lift the chin away from the chest slightly to relieve any pressure on the back of the neck.
If you feel unstable or feel pain anywhere in shoulder stand, come gently out of it by bending your knees and using your hands to support you as you roll down, and do legs up the wall instead.
Supported Reclined Butterfly Pose
For our final pose calms the nervous system and improves blood supply to the kidneys and liver. Pile up some pillows or cushions behind you, lengthways, or use a bolster. With your buttocks on the mat, lay back onto the pillows so your spine is supported but you have a slight curve in the lower back. Bring the soles of the feet together and allow the knees to fall open. Bring your hands out at your sides, close the eyes and surrender into the breath. Allow the knees to be a heavy, and notice if you are tensing your buttocks or hips. Try to relax them and allow yourself to be supported.
Stay here breathing strongly through the nose for as long as feels comfortable. Et volia! Notice the effects of last night, or that pesky cold start to drift away as fresh blood starts to flow and toxins get released! Be sure to drink lots of water for the rest of the day and you’ll be feeling right as rain again in no time!