By Gwen Lawrence
It’s allergy season — that time of year when many of us are plagued by itchy or watery eyes, runny noses, and bouts of sneezing and coughing that threaten to knock pictures off the wall. These common allergy symptoms are the body’s way of defending itself against bacteria and viruses. Luckily, yoga can help!
First, we have to figure out where those annoying symptoms are coming from. Allergies are triggered by allergens. Some of the most common seasonal allergens include pollen, dust, mold, food and insect venom. Irritants such as cigarette smoke, air pollution and some strong odors (such as perfumes) also impinge the respiratory system.
The best way to prevent allergy symptoms is to avoid what triggers them — such as by staying indoors on days when the pollen count is at its highest and keeping your home free of dust. But yoga can also help with both the prevention and management of allergy symptoms.
Yoga has been shown to have a stabilizing effect on the immune system, and with a regular yoga practice, the overall health and local resistance in respiratory passages is improved, making it easier for your body to fend off allergens. Yoga is also a great and effective stress management technique. It helps you relax and control your mind and emotions, facilitating the control of your allergic reaction.
Asanas for allergies
- Shoulder Stand and other Inversions open nasal passages and improve drainage. However, do not hold for more than a minute or two at a time so as not to create too much pressure.
- Plow Pose opens the muscles at the base of the skull and the back of the neck, where pressure tends to accumulate. When these muscles are loose, drainage is clearer.
- Bridge and other Backbends open the chest. You can also stretch on aBalance Ball or over the back of a cushioned chair. I recommend everybody in the world do this not only to help with allergies but also to undo all the forward moving/leaning postures (sitting in front of a computer, cooking, driving, etc.) that makes us slouch. Back-bending is also a great way to expand the chest and lungs and increase lung capacity.
- Three-Part Yogic Breath helps increase lung capacity and decrease toxins and stale air. It also helps to reduce stress, which can can improve immunity and make you less susceptible to allergies and colds.
- Fish Pose is another great way to open the chest, lungs and throat to free the breath. This pose stimulates the thymus gland, which is located under the sternum. This is particularly important in young children with allergies, as the ability of the thymus to regulate the lymphatic system and help establish immunities significantly decreases after puberty.
Try these poses the next time you sense your allergies acting up. But remember: Yoga helps only in the management of allergies and should not be treated as a cure. Medical attention may still be needed for more extreme allergy symptoms.