Poses by Benefit

10 Yoga Poses and Self-Care Practices to Do Right After You Catch a Cold

Feel like you have a cold coming on? Nip it in the bud with these immunity-boosting tips.

It’s been an epic flu season—and it’s not over yet. Although flu activity peaked in February, a second wave of outbreaks may be in the making. But getting struck by sickness doesn’t mean you are down for the count. Here, yoga and meditation teacher Chrissy Carter shares her favorite poses and self-care practices for getting back on your feet faster.

See also 7 Ways Kids Can Fend Off Flu with Yoga

5 Healing Poses + 5 Quick-Recovery Self-Care Practices

1. Energize with a Simple Standing Vinyasa

mountain pose, tadasana

Start standing in Tadasana (Mountain Pose). On an inhale, reach your arms forward and up into Urdhva Hastasana (Upward Salute). Ground down into your feet and lengthen up through the sides of your body. If it feels easeful in your neck, lift your chest and look up toward your hands (gazing up will lift your spirits). On an exhale, sit back and down into Utkatasana (Chair Pose), shifting your weight back into your heels. Gaze forward as you inhale and rise back up into Urdhva Hastasana. Then, exhale as you lower your arms into Tadasana. Do this just once or repeat several times.

See also Why Tadasana Is the Blueprint Pose

2. Breathe Deeply in Dynamic Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II)

Two Fit Moms perform Warrior II lunges.

Start in Tadasana. Step or jump your feet wide apart and rotate your right thigh open 90 degrees. Turn the toes of your left leg in approximately 10 degrees. As you inhale, ground down into your feet and lift your arms up. Gaze forward or lift up through your chest and look up toward your hands if that feels comfortable in your neck. Exhale and bend your front knee, open your arms out to the sides, and gaze over your right hand. Flow back and forth between straightening and bending your front knee for five breaths, then hold Virabhadrasana II (Warrior II) for five breaths. To come out of the pose, straighten your right knee, parallel your feet, and bring your hands to your hips. Repeat on the left side. Moving in and out of Virabhadrasana II dynamically like this will get your body moving and connect you to your breath.

See also 10 Poses Younger Than Yoga Journal

3. Twist and Detox in Ardha Matsyendrasana (Half Lord of the Fishes)

Come to sit in Dandasana (Staff Pose) with your legs stretched out in front of you. Bend your right knee and place your right foot outside your straight left leg. Shift your weight into your left hip in order to bend the left knee and draw the left foot to the outside of your right hip. (Note: You can modify the pose by sitting up on blankets, or by keeping the bottom leg straight.) Bring your right hand onto the floor behind you, perched up on your fingertips to encourage a lift in your spine. Cross your left elbow to the outside of our right knee. (You can also wrap your left forearm around your right knee and hug the right knee in toward your chest; this creates more space for the twist.) Inhale and lengthen up through your spine. Exhale and gently twist to the right. Hold for 10 breaths. Repeat on the other side. The deep breathing that twists demand helps your organs detoxify. And this particular twist opens the outer hips, releasing the work of Virabhadrasana II.

See also Do Yoga Twists Really Wring Out Toxins?

4. Revitalize in Supported Parivrtta Upavistha Konasana (Wide-Legged Seated Open Twist)

Wide-Legged Seated Forward Fold KARLY TREACY

Start in Dandasana (Staff Pose). Stretch your legs wide apart and reach through your heels. Place a block or a chair outside your right knee. Inhale and press the tops of your thighs down into the floor and lengthen up through your spine. Exhale and lean toward your right foot, placing your right elbow to rest on the block or chair. Place your left hand behind your head and rotate the left outer upper arm toward your face. Use your exhalations to explore a gentle twist up toward the ceiling. Stay here for 10 to 20 breaths. Ground down into your thighs to rise back up to sit, then repeat to the other side. (Note: If you feel like your tailbone is tucking underneath you and your lower back is rounding, come to sit up on a folded blanket or two.) This pose stretches the hamstrings and inner thighs, opens the side body, and stimulates your lymphatic system, all keys to better immunity.

See also Kathryn Budig’s Twist + Detox Video

5. Restore in Supta Baddha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)

Two Fit Moms in Reclining Bound Angle Pose

Traditionally known as the destroyer of disease, this is a wonderfully restorative pose to do before bed. Lie down on your back, bringing your heels to touch and opening your knees. Place a prop under each knee to support the release of your inner thighs. Rest your hands on your torso to connect with your breath; close your eyes and observe what’s happening beneath your hands. When your mind wanders, that’s OK. Simply bring your attention back to your breath. This pose will ground your attention in your body, helping you to tune into how you feel. To encourage more space for your inhalations, hold your elbows on the floor above your head.

See also Elena Brower’s 10-Minute Yoga Nidra to Alleviate Stress

1. Soothe a sore throat with hot water and lemon.

Jennifer Iserloh's lemon water recipe.

When you’re congested and raspy, relief can be found in a hot lemon honey water concoction. Lemon is a great source of Vitamin C and a powerful phlegm-fighter; honey is an effective cough suppressant and provides relief for scratchy throats. “I turn to this soothing, warming drink when I don’t feel well,” says Carter. “Honey coats the throat, while lemon is known to support the digestive and immune systems.” She recommends drinking this first thing in the morning, as well as throughout the day, to stay well-hydrated.

See also Your 13-Step Ayurvedic Wake-Up Routine

2. Up-level your shower.

woman bath shower spa

Your best secret weapon against stuffiness may be as simple as a few drops of eucalyptus oil added to your shower. Its strong, bracing smell works as an expectorant to loosen mucous and help you expel it from your body. “Sprinkle a few drop of eucalyptus oil in the shower, then take some deep inhales to help clear congested sinuses and wake up the senses,” says Carter. “Even after my cold is gone, I continue this ritual for a few days because the hot steam mixed with the smell of eucalyptus oil brings me back to life.”

See also All-Day Ayurveda: Give Your Daily Routine a Makeover

3. Walk it off.

Woman Walking in Field

Mild exercise, such as walking, can significantly improve your ability to ward off an infection. Plus, walking stimulates deeper breathing that can open up plugged nasal passages. “There’s nothing better after having been cooped up inside with a cold than to take a walk outside and get some fresh air,” says Carter. For an added perk, she suggests turning it into a walking meditation by paying attention to the ground under your feet with each step you take. “Observe your surroundings—notice the colors, the smells, the breeze against your skin. Reconnecting with the outside world is a great first step to getting back into the swing of your life.”

See also 4 Ways to Get Outside More to Boost Your Mood

4. Load up on citrus.

oranges, citrus, lemons

Instinctively, many of us are drawn to citrus fruits when we have a cold, and there’s scientific evidence that this hunch is a good one: Many studies show vitamin C can shorten the duration of a cold. Carter suggests this creative twist on the traditional cup of OJ: “Peel and chop up one orange and one grapefruit, then drizzle with honey and a squeeze of lime juice to taste,” she says. “You can add some chopped nuts, like pistachios, almonds, or hazelnuts, for crunch.”

See also 3 Immune-Boosting Citrus Fruits

5. Taper your re-entry with lavender.

Essential Oils

One of the biggest mistakes people make after they’ve been sick is jumping back into life full throttle. A savvier approach would be to get back into your routine with conscious restraint, conserving your energy rather than squandering it. Carter recommends lavender oil for the transition: “Lavender oil is calming, which is the perfect energy to cultivate as you return to your life after being sick,” she says. “Sometimes we can dive too quickly back into our routines, pushing ourselves back to ‘normal’ at the first sign of feeling better. A few drops of lavender oil on the wrists—and a few easy breaths to really take in the aroma—reminds us to slow down, take our time, and listen to the body.”

See also The Essential Guide to Essential Oils