Red, dry eyes. Runny nose. Bouts of sneezing. Seasonal allergies knock millions of us into an itchy, achy, tired loop. Allergies aren’t just annoying, they impact our sleep, productivity and mood.
Similar to stress, our body attacks allergens by releasing fight-or-flight stress hormones and histamines. However, a consistent yoga practice trains us to stay calm, which helps tell our body to hold its fire.
If allergies have you on the defensive, opt for a gentle flow or restorative class so you can practice in a relaxing, soothing manner — or add these poses to your allergy-fighting arsenal.
1. ALTERNATE NOSTRIL BREATHING
In this breathing exercise, we block one nostril at a time to direct the flow of breath through the opposite side. This is believed to balance our left and right brains, help clear blocked energy and calm the mind. It can be a challenge for those with allergies or blocked sinuses, but it can also clear out those channels, alleviating symptoms. Just keep a box of tissues nearby.
The move: Come into a comfortable seated position with your left hand resting on your left thigh or knee. Create the “cowabunga” hand signal with your right hand: Fold the middle three fingers down, keeping the thumb and pinky finger free. Bring your palm toward your face, close the right nostril with the thumb and breathe in through the left nostril. Use the pinky finger to close the left nostril, release the thumb from your right and exhale through the right nostril. This is one cycle of breath.
Repeat for up to 10 cycles, trying to keep the inhalations and exhalations even.
Take several normal breaths and repeat on the other side. Place the right hand on the knee, fold the middle three fingers of the left hand in, close the left nostril with the thumb and breathe in through the right. Release the left nostril, seal the right and exhale. Repeat for as many cycles of breath as you practiced on the first side.
The muscles between your ribs get tired from working so hard to push the air past blocked passages. This pose soothes and opens those muscles.
The move: Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor with your ankles under your knees. Your feet should be hip-width apart and parallel so that all 10 toes point in the same direction. Arms rest on the floor by your sides, palms down.
As you inhale, press into the backs of the arms and the feet, tilt the pelvis up and lift your hips up until your thighs are almost parallel to the floor. After 5–10 breaths, exhale and slowly roll down vertebrae by vertebrae.
Gate pose is a deep stretch for the side of the body. It engages and lengthens all of our core muscles, particularly the laterals and the intercostal muscles, which connect the ribs. Regularly stretching and strengthening these muscles improves lung function.
The move: Begin in an upright kneeling position so that your butt is off your heels, your knees are hip-width apart and your thighs are parallel. Extend your right leg out to the right side, resting your heel on the ground and pointing your kneecap and toes to the sky.
Place your right hand on your right thigh and, as you inhale, lift your left arm overhead. As you exhale, bend from the waist over your right leg. Your right hand might stay where it is or gently slide down your right leg. Rotate your chest and top shoulder open so the torso faces directly forward. If it’s comfortable for your neck, gaze under your left arm. Press your right foot into the ground and lengthen through your fingertips and the crown of your head so you feel a deep stretch through the left side of your body. Breathe here for 5–10 breaths. Then on an inhale, lift up out of your waist, bend your right leg, return to an upright kneeling position and repeat on the other side.
Inversions can clear the respiratory tract, drain the nose and bring fresh oxygen to your head. However, spending too much time in down dog puts additional pressure on the head so stick to inversions like legs up the wall and plow that give your head more support.
The move: To begin, lie on your back with your arms beside you. As you inhale, engage your abdominals and lift your legs toward the sky. Bring your hands to your low back for support, tucking your elbows close into your body. As you exhale, hinge from your hips and try to bring your toes to the floor above your head. If your toes don’t reach the ground — and that’s normal — keep your hands on your low back for support. If your feet do touch the ground, release your hands and press your palms into the earth.
Keep your chin away from your chest, soften your jaw and breathe here for 10 or more breaths. To release out of the pose, bring your hands back to your low back, inhale and lift your legs toward the sky, exhale and gently roll down.
READ MORE 5-POSE YOGA FIX
This backbend is great for the respiratory system because it opens the chest, lungs and throat. It also stimulates the thymus gland, which helps regulate the lymphatic system.
The move: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Slide your hands, palms down, under your butt. Tuck your forearms and elbows into your body.
As you inhale, press into your forearms, puff up your chest, squeeze your shoulder blades together and lift your upper torso and head off the floor. Rest either the back of your head or the crown on the floor. To make this more accessible, place a block or blanket beneath your head. You can keep your knees bent or straight. If you extend your legs, keep your thighs active and press through your heels.
Hold fish for 5–10 breaths. Then on an exhale, lower your head and upper body to the ground and hug your knees into your chest.
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