Relieve Allergy Symptoms with Yoga

27 May 2013

Once again it’s that dreaded time of year we call allergy season, because of the amount of pollen in the air many of us are troubled by watery/itchy eyes, sneezing, nasal congestion, runny nose, scratchy throat and coughing. Pollen is there to help plants reproduce, but if you inhale it, it may cause these allergy symptoms to really flare up. These common allergy symptoms are the body’s way of defending itself against bacteria, viruses and pollens.

Aside from the seasonal allergies there are perennial allergies, usually present year-round, and these include allergens such as cigarette smoke, air pollution, strong odors (such as perfumes), pet dander and house dust mites which also impinge the respiratory system. Molds are another source of allergy symptoms and can be a seasonal or perennial allergy trigger. Fortunately, yoga is there to help!

Of course, the best way to prevent allergy symptoms is to avoid what triggers them; like staying indoors on days when the pollen count is at its highest and keeping your home free of dust. Although these annoying symptoms may not be completely eliminated, yoga can help greatly with both their prevention and their management.

Studies have shown yoga to have a stabilizing effect on the immune system, and with regular yoga practice, overall health, wellness and local resistance in your respiratory passages is improved, making it easier for your body to ward off those allergens. Yoga is also an efficient and effective stress management technique, and since stress aggravates the discomfort, anything that helps you relax, control your mind and hold your emotions in check, works well to control your allergic reaction.

 Some asanas especially helpful for allergies:

Sarvangasana (Shoulder Stand) and other Inversions open nasal passages and improve drainage. However, do not hold the pose for more than a minute or two at a time or you may run the risk of creating too much pressure.

Halasana (Plow Pose) opens up the muscles at the base of the skull and the back of the neck, where pressure tends to accumulate. When these muscles are relaxed, drainage can occur much easier.

Setubandhasana (Bridge Pose) and other Back-bends stretch and open the chest. You can also use a Balance Ball or even stretch over the back of a cushioned chair. This will not only to help with allergies but also to undo all the forward bending/moving/leaning postures (like sitting in front of a computer, cooking, driving, etc.) that make us slump over. Back-bends are also a excellent way to expand the chest and lungs which increases lung capacity.

Matsyasana (Fish Pose) is another awesome way to open the chest, lungs and throat for freer breathing. This pose will stimulate the thymus gland (located under the sternum). This is particularly helpful for young children with allergies, since one of the primary functions of the thymus is to regulate the lymphatic system and help to establish immunities which significantly decrease after puberty.

The Three-Part Yogic Breath also increases lung capacity and works to decrease toxins and remove stale air. By reducing stress, it improves immunity and makes you much less susceptible to allergies and colds.

And, let’s not forget Jala Neti which flushes out the nasal passages, alleviating many of the symptoms of allergy sufferers.

Try these yoga poses the next time you feel your allergies are about to act up. But keep in mind, yoga only helps in the management of allergies and does not affect a permanent cure. The attention of a trusted health-care professional may still be needed if allergy symptoms persist or become more severe.

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