November 12, 2014

Manage Stress & Avoid the Flu with Restorative Action.



As we enter the time of year when sniffles are passed around generously and runny noses are common, it is great to be prepared with some natural remedies for preventing and addressing colds and flus.

When faced with the first sign of a sore throat or stuffy nose, do you push through with your regular fitness or yoga practice or take extra time to rest?

Have you ever wondered about the best way to stay healthy and avoid succumbing to a full-blown flu?

On one hand, practicing yoga can be a great way to handle stress and feel more balanced. Most of us are familiar with the way that stress influences our immune systems from personal experience. You may have noticed that you always seem to come down with a cold when you are overworked or exhausted.

Research has uncovered the reason behind why stress makes colds and other health issues more likely.

Cortisol, one of our major stress hormones, is a main culprit. When we are threatened, anxious or under stress, the adrenal glands secrete cortisol. This temporarily dampens the immune system and inflammation to free up energy to address the acute threat. With chronic stress, the body’s responsiveness to cortisol decreases, which allows inflammation to run unchecked.

The immune system can become less sensitive to cortisol making it more difficult to regulate the inflammatory response. In this case, a chronically-stressed person who is exposed to a cold-causing virus is more likely to become ill.

In order to avoid getting that cold that is being passed around the office, it is important to manage ongoing daily stressors. One way to keep stress in check is to have a regular, balanced yoga practice or daily meditation time. But it is equally important to remain mindful of the need to slow down when a cold starts to creep in.

Shift to a Restorative Practice

Instead of constantly pushing yourself to get to the gym or be more productive, taking time to slow down and get extra rest can make a huge difference in keeping you healthy all season long! One approach that can help you slow down and give your body get some much needed relaxation is to shift to a more restorative practice when you begin to feel run down. Instead of keeping up your regular vigorous class or going to the gym, consider reaching for a bolster, blanket and eye pillow and engage in some supported, restorative postures. For example, try some of these calming, restful poses:

Supported Child’s Pose with your forehead on a block, blanket or bolster can help you relax and release tension. It can also be a great pose for supporting the draining of the sinuses to help relieve head colds and sinus pressure.

Legs Up the Wall Pose is another restorative posture that can support the body in greater relaxation and help balance the immune system. Lie on your back near the wall with a blanket under your lower back. Place your sit bones close to the wall, and rest your legs against the wall, reaching towards the ceiling. This posture is very relaxing and can help open the chest to allow for deeper breathing.

Gentle Seated and Reclining Twists can help cleanse the internal organs and boost the immune system. Twists are also a great way to release tension and physical stress in the body.

Supported Bound Angle Pose allows you to open up the chest and abdomen. Find a comfortable posture with your thighs supported by folded blankets and your head resting gently on a block, bolster or blankets. Find a place of supported deep relaxation which calms the nervous system. You can also try this in a reclining position.

Not only can slowing down help the physical body remain more balanced, a restorative practice also helps to calm the mind and reduce the constant anxiety of modern life.

Reflective, restorative practices are a great way to slow down, detox the mind and body and turn inward. How do you deal with a developing cold? What are your favorite practices for slowing down and finding the pause?


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Author: Dr. Jennifer L. Weinberg

Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Sarah-Rose at Flickr 

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Dr. Jennifer L. Weinberg MD MPH MBE