I had a flu recently, couldn't breathe through my nose, and my head was hurting. Does it make sense to practice yoga when you're sick? Katharina B.
I love when people ask me this question because I’m able to smile at them and reply: “Being sick is the BEST time to do yoga.”
When most people think of yoga, bending and sweating (and maybe some tired, internal swearing) come to mind. It’s easy to sometimes forget the mental practice of yoga, which to me is the best type to implement in times of sickness, pain, and suffering.
Recently, I was in a bicycle accident that prevented me from practicing asana during the months following it. At first, I was frustrated. How was I going to survive without stepping on my mat for such a long period of time? Surely, it wasn’t possible.
Then, my teachers and friends reminded me that while I was prohibited from exercising and challenging my body, my mind was still in need of a workout. It was the perfect time to really concentrate on meditating, which was something I often avoided in my pursuit for the “perfect” handstand or backbend. I allowed myself to sit for several minutes a day and just be, without any stress on my body or mind, which after the accident, was exactly what I needed.
Now, while a common cold may not sound as serious as a bike accident, taking care of yourself while you’re dealing with either is equally as important. Obviously, if you have a headache, don’t go upside down and hang out in headstand for a few minutes, and if you can’t breathe through your nose, don’t practice Ujjayi breath. Like with anything, moderation, concentration, and discipline are key.
If you feel like you’re able to, it might be nice to do Restorative or Yin Yoga when you’re sick or injured. These practices require a lot less effort cardio and muscular-wise than Vinyasa or power yoga, and can give the body the time it needs to recover and relax.
Whatever you decide to do, be sure you’re listening to your body and mind before anything else!