Thursday, April 17, 2008

Yoga when you're sick.

Is it a good idea to do yoga when you're sick?

Sometimes when you're looking for an answer it helps to have another opinion on the information available. Personally, I find it difficult to accept answers I get from vested interests and I just want an objective opinion on the info that's out there.

So, for what it's worth, I researched the question, and here's what I found:

The enduring "conventional wisdom" about exercising when sick is the "neck rule:"

If the symptoms are above the neck, it's ok to exercise, but take it easy.

If the symptoms are below the neck, rest is a better option.

And the main idea: listen to your body, take it easy.

So while I think that's great advice, when it comes to practicing yoga, we might consider some other factors. Personally, I believe there are mental and willpower benefits to keeping a regular daily practice. But that doesn't mean I do two hours of strenuous asana practice every day. That wouldn't be yoga. Yoga is all about listening to the body and practicing accordingly:

Breathing. So long as you can breathe mindfully, you can do yoga. Remember: use effects function. I often find when I'm suffering from a cough, that my ribcage is sore and locked and my breathing is very shallow. A few minutes of mindful breathing tends to help make me feel a little better. In addition, some research, such as this study on motion sickness suggest that breathing exercises can help control nausea.

Restful stretching
. A wide variety of research available on the google concurs that mild stretching leads to relaxation which in turn strengthens immune response. Other resources suggested that stretching can give some relief from body aches associated with being sick. When I'm sick, I take a very mild and restful "yin" approach to yoga, such as the asanas described at

Some other resources include: A discussion at yoga forum.

Mysore Musings. Another yoga blog tackles the issue

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