Can Yoga Help When You’re Sick?

I keep hearing about how yoga is an “embodied practice,” and recently this was put to the test when I ventured out of my day-to-day routine and needed it the most. Now that I’ve been through the ringer, I’m looking back to share how your yoga practice might help you when you’re feeling unwell.

Use It Or Lose It

First, I think a deeper, habitual yoga practice is one that will help you through many challenges. If you try to practice the basics, such as being non-harming, being truthful, breathwork, etc., on a daily basis, then when you’re out of your routine all of these will come naturally.

When I was out of my routine recently, it was for a week-long, work-related trip in a different climate. I went into it strong by hydrating and setting intentions of compassion and loving kindness (for myself and others I would be working with and for). What else could I possibly need?

All of that was well and good throughout the week. I continued to drink lots of water, took time to do at least short meditations and yoga asana practices in my room when able, washed my hands often, and kept my habit of going to bed at a decent time.

Note that in general, keeping as many healthy routines as possible when you travel, and when you’re unwell, can go a long way.

I felt great all week. I believe that because of my meditation and yoga practice, I was calm when I lost my wallet at the airport. I was energized by all of the people I met each day. I was grateful for my job and my life.

Home safe and sound, I slept in my own bed and rose the next morning, but then I felt like I hit a brick wall. I tested negative for Covid (fwiw, I’m vaxxed; tested twice), but was diagnosed with a general virus. For four days I slept, waking long enough to do things that couldn’t wait, then falling asleep again. I forced myself to take a shower only when I sneezed into my hair; I used my dog as a pillow; and I half-watched an embarrassing amount of television, including a Masterclass on how to do makeup (laughable if you’ve ever seen me – I barely wear makeup).

If you find yourself in this place of illness, first, obviously, see a doctor if at all possible. In addition to that, explore your yoga practice to see how it can help you get through the worst of it, including the emotional / mental part.

Perhaps try to …

  • Practice taking deep, cleansing breaths as you’re able.
  • Step outside into the sun for fresh air, exposure to nature sounds, and Vitamin D.
  • Remember that everything is temporary and that, as I heard a teacher say, “we are spiritual beings having a human existence” – being sick is a very human thing to do.
  • Feel compassion for those who are suffering even more than you (not to negate your current experience, but to give well-wishes to others who also need them).
  • Move. Take slow neck rolls, walk a circle around your living space when you get up for the restroom, or stretch your arms overhead – whatever feels good. Listening to your body is part of yoga.

In Hindsight…

Looking back on my week, I do wish I had worn a mask when I was on the four different airplanes and more crowded spaces. Even if it wasn’t Covid, this could’ve potentially been avoided had I done so. I also wish that I had remembered over-the-counter helpers; in the past I’ve used Airborne before travel and Zycam when I felt a cold coming on, and this time they both slipped my radar.

How has your yoga or meditation practice helped you in trying times?

Wishing you peace,
Cherie Dawn

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