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Fight Sickness With Breath & Movement

Stress is one of the leading causes of sickness, and when we're chronically stressed, the deep tissue that surrounds our organs, muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments (called fascia) is compromised. Because fascia is made up of nerves, we need to move and stretch our body so that this fascia can be "rung out." Consider our organs and tissue to be like sponges, absorbing what we put into our bodies. By stretching and moving, we release the stagnant energy within our cells, allowing it to remove the harmful toxins in our bodies.

Alongside this, our blood needs oxygen to keep the body healthy and aid in cell growth. Intentional breath-work gives our blood the boost of oxygen required to generate new circulation. When doing asanas (yoga poses) and pranayama breathing, we're helping this circulation process in our systems, which leads to health and stronger immunity. Simply explained, yoga is "movement linked with breath." By incorporating yoga into our routines, we can significantly strengthen our body's ability to combat sickness.  

Below are a few of my favorite yoga poses that not only help to de-stress the nervous system and calm the mind but support the body in fighting illness. If you’re looking for the perfect mat to practice on at home, check out our guide to eco-friendly yoga mats.

1. Sphinx Pose (Salamba Bhujangasana)

This pose is highly therapeutic for the nervous system and is wonderful for combatting anxiety and depression. Being that it is an easy pose to go into, I love this one for the days that feel a little overwhelming. It's considered a restorative yin posture—meaning it doesn't require a lot from the body, and it's wonderful to do in the morning as it energizes and soothes the mind. Sphinx also massages the lower abdomen and alleviates stomach pain.

Tips for your practice: Begin by lying flat on the stomach and lifting the shoulders. Extend the hands forward, bending at the elbows, and relax the glutes while lifting the neck. Allow the body to relax into this restorative pose, breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.

2. Revolved Chair Pose (Parivrtta Utkatasana)

Twisted postures in yoga are great for the overall health of the body. Revolved chair pose, in particular, offers an even deeper "ringing out" of the kidneys and digestive organs, resulting in an internal detox. This posture is also excellent for the deepening of breath and is ultra-grounding.

Tips for your practice: Allow the breath to root this posture and find grounded stillness in the legs. Bring the arms into prayer and use the elbows against the thighs to deepen the twist and release with breath.

3. Standing Backbend (Anuvittasana)

Backbends are specifically detoxifying for the adrenal glands, which can become exasperated due to stress. A standing backbend is a modified version of Camel pose, and is particularly helpful in opening up the respiratory system. During cold season, use a standing backbend to strengthen the lungs and keep the nasal passage open for breath.

Tips for your practice: Standing first in mountain pose, use the core to lift the upper body upright and back. Place the hands on the lower back directly above the glutes. Breathe in and allow the body to lift and extend backward. Hold here for a few deep breaths, then come up slowly as backbends can cause a light-headed sensation.

4. Eagle Pose (Garudasana) 

This balancing pose helps to stimulate fresh blood flow throughout the body by squeezing pressure points—giving the body a jolt of immunity-boosting fluid. The squeezing motion in the legs and arms helps to boost circulation and release toxins. 

Tips for your practice: Being that this is a standing, balancing posture, breath is essential for keeping the body grounded and still. This increase in breath further stimulates circulation throughout the body and the mind, helping to release tension and stagnant energy.

5. Triangle Pose (Trikonasana) 

Physically, this pose is strengthening for the legs and core, but it also helps to open the hips and release tension in the shoulders. Being that this pose is considered to be therapeutic, there is an element of overall release within the body. Triangle pose also stretches the fascia around the lungs, helping with breathing. This pose is excellent for those who hold tension in the hips, as it's an opening posture. We carry a lot of our emotions in our hips, and Triangle pose allows for a deep opening and release of energy.

Tips for your practice: Keep a bend in your front knee, and exhale as you move your leading hand towards the front of your mat. Be gentle on your ribs as you roll them open, and work to equalize the feeling of length in the torso.

6. Happy Baby (Ananda Balasana) 

Happy Baby is truly one of my favorite asanas. The deep hip-opening sensation while laying on the back is a very therapeutic and non-confrontational way to give the body relaxed nourishment. Again, because we hold emotional tension in our hips, Happy Baby is a fantastic pose to relax the mind and ring out toxins. It also stimulates the kidneys and digestion.

Tips for your practice: Breathing is necessary to receive the full benefits of this pose. Relax the hips downwards to allow for external rotation, and let the legs fall open. The rocking motion from side-to-side can further deepen both the pose and its benefits. 

Take time during flu season (or any stressful season) to find the right remedies that work for you and your body. Find time to move, linking breath with movement and finding the right postures that work for you. Notice how you feel before and after your chosen asanas, and listen to your body, noticing how it responds in the long term.

If there are any yoga poses you love or feel you've benefited from, share them in the comments below!

Courtney Jay Higgins is the Associate Editor at The Good Trade. She is also a Yoga Instructor, vegetarian, wellness and fashion enthusiast. Originally from Colorado, her soul found California when she came to get her degree in Visual Communications at the Fashion Institute Of Design & Merchandising. She has a background in telling a story through writing, creative direction and content creation. Check out her blog and Instagram for her unique perspective on the mergence of fashion and spirituality.

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