After buried in historical freeze, torrential rains, unseasonal cold days, and damp and dreary grey skies – finally… Spring is here!!! Time to celebrate, enjoy the new growth, sunny skies, and inhale the spring air, right??? Not for all of us – for some of us, this is a dreaded time of the year, when the spring pollen plays havoc with our immune system, when we have itchy eyes and runny noses. Before you reach out for antihistamines or run to your doctor, read on – you may find a less taxing relief, right within your reach.
In the last few decades, yoga has become a house hold name, a regular presence in studios, gyms, health clubs, and other places. Sometimes it’s hip to practice yoga – from Gwyneth Paltrow to Orlando Bloom, everybody does it. But getting back to reality and to you and me – what is yoga?
Yoga has been practiced for more than 5,000 years. The most common definition for yoga is “union” – it can be union of body and mind, union of physical and spiritual, or union of known and unknown. Several times yoga is projected as one more type of exercise, or as a work out. However, the way yoga was originally developed was as a stepping stone to a higher plane, for spiritual growth. At the more normal plane, yoga can be a “work in” unlike the work out we are so used to. Yoga inspires you to focus on yourself, to turn within, and help you accept yourself the way you are.
We are all too familiar with the physical benefits of yoga – we see the slender bodies in Lululemon outfits, feasting our eyes in most of the yoga studios. However, the other aspect of yoga practice – yoga for therapy, is slowly but surely emerging as a winner. Yoga has been found to be a powerful therapeutic tool, helping people alleviate back and neck pain, stiff shoulders, and emotional illnesses such as depression and anxiety. Several main stream physicians have taken up yoga therapy as their full time activity. To name a few, Dr. Timothy McCall, a Board certified internist, has written a best seller entitled Yoga as Medicine and he runs workshops on the same lines. Dr. Loren Fishman, Board Certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, has written numerous books on Yoga for arthritis, osteoporosis, back pain, MS and focuses his practice on treating people with these problems, combining yoga and medicine.
Coming back to the topic of discussion – yoga for seasonal allergies - let’s focus on what yoga can and cannot do to give you relief from that itchy throat, watery eyes and runny nose. We are all familiar with the concept that we catch colds and infections easily and more often if our immune system is not strong. Strong immunity means active lymphatic system. The lymphatic system plays an essential role in maintaining the body’s health in a world of potential accidents, climatic changes, infections, parasites, and pollution. The primary function of this system is the production, maintenance, and distribution of the defense of the body against invading organism such as bacteria, viruses, abnormal cells, and toxins.
This is where yoga comes into picture. A regular yoga practice can help a person to build the strength through facilitating a more active lymphatic drainage, and by increasing the lung capacity to ingest more oxygen and eliminate toxins. Practicing yoga the right way (for your specific situation) will increase your resistance to illness and disease.
There are several yoga asanas that focus on
increasing the lung capacity
opening the chest cavity
mobilizing the rib cage to support respiration
facilitating complete exhalation, and
inducing deep relaxation.
Some of the most useful asanas to achieve these objectives are briefly described below (if you have neck, back or shoulder issues, or chronic ailments such as blood pressure, it is advised to learn these from an experienced yoga teacher so as not to aggravate the current issues):
Fish pose opens the chest, lungs and throat to free the breath. This pose also stimulates the thymus gland, regulates the lymphatic system and helps establish immunities.
Camel pose – opens the chest and aids in alleviating respiratory illnesses. Take caution if you have severe neck problems - keep your neck neutral without bending backwards. You can also use blocks on either side to help with the curve.
Take deeper breaths with the open chest and feel the movement in your ribs
3. Forward bends:
Downward dog is a very energizing pose that relieves head ache, fatigue, asthma and helps drain mucus. Take caution if you have extreme congestion since you may feel like you cannot breathe when inverted - in this case first do Neti and steam inhalation before doing this pose.
Another terrific allergy symptom tamer is the neti pot. Here is a picture of it, before I explain what it is and what it can potentially do for you:
A neti pot is a container designed to rinse debris or mucus from your nasal cavity. You might use a neti pot to treat symptoms of nasal allergies, sinus problems or colds – T C Li, MD, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic. According to Dr. Mehmet Oz, some of the scientific research that’s been done shows that neti pot “is as effective as drugs for preventing sinus infections.. and hugely beneficial for people with allergies.” Of course, it comes with a huge side benefit of not having the drug induced side effects. What used to be a fringe cleansing practice for die-hard yoga practitioners is now becoming a mainstream alternative to cold, sinus, and allergy medication. Today you can buy a neti pot in Walgreens, CVS, Target, and pretty much everywhere.
Getting familiar with our noses in order to understand how a neti pot can help us – nostrils are the interface between your body and the atmosphere – they filter, clean, heat, and moisten the air you inhale. The sensitive lining of the nostrils secretes mucus, which effectively traps dust, dirt, and other particles when it is moist. All day the moist, stick mucus collects dirty particles from the air you breathe and keeps it from entering into the lungs. And if we don’t clean this matter out of the nostrils it will end in our stomachs. The NASAL WASH dissolves and clears away dried mucus and stimulates the nasal linings to secrete fresh, moist mucus, which will help keep our noses healthy. Conclusion – you can use the neti pot to rinse away pollen, dust, germs, and other airborne contaminants.
The way a neti pot works, in Dr. Carrie Demers, MD’s words – nose is divided into two passages, and there’s a septum in between. You pour the water in one nostril, it goes around the back of the septum, and gravity helps it flow out the other side” You use warm saline solution to wash your sinuses. You fill the neti pot with this solution, lean over a sink, face forward. Raise your face up slightly, pour the solution into one nostril and in a few seconds, it will flow out of the other nostril. Then repeat on the other side. Once you are done washing, exhale forcefully a few times to clear loose mucus and water.
Yet another natural remedy that worked for me is the use of essential oils. Several years ago, I was introduced to an essential oil blend called "Breathe" when I had severe sinus issue. It was love at first sniff. I felt immediate relief and started exploring about this option. I later got certified as an essential oil consultant and helped many people with their chronic health issues.
If you want to try for yourself, head to the link below to buy the "Seasonal Allergies Blend" for your allergies. One great thing about these remedies is the lack of negative side effects. Of course FDA has not blessed them but our experience certainly did.
Give it a try, you have got nothing to lose except your congestion and mucus.