Yoga for Hay Fever
Hay fever is very common; it is an allergic condition that up to one in five people at some point in their life will suffer from.
Hay fever occurs when a harmless airborne substance is regarded as a threat by the immune system.
Common hay fever symptoms include watery itchy eyes, itchy nose, roof of the mouth or throat, runny nose, congestion, sneezing, coughing and fatigue.
The most effective way to manage hay fever would be to avoid exposure to pollen. However, this is near enough impossible to do. Pollen is very difficult to avoid, being airborne it gets everywhere!
Pollen is the fine powder released by plants, it contains proteins that irritate the eyes, nose and throat; although pollen is most predominant during the summer months, symptoms of hay fever can be experienced from spring through to autumn. Tree pollen is present during the spring, grass pollen late spring and early summer and weed pollen is released late autumn.
During the hay fever season Restorative Yoga is an ideal practice as it is floor based and very nurturing, it will help to reduce stress in the body which has a positive influence on the immune system.
Practicing pranayamas where the inhalation and exhalation take place through the mouth such as; -sheetali (the cooling breath) or the sheetkari (the hissing breath) are perfect if your nose is congested.
When the pollen levels lower and your congestion eases a little try anuloma viloma also known as nadi shodana (alternate nostril breathing) to help strengthen the immune system and restore balance.
Inverted postures could also aggravate the condition, it is a good idea to avoid all inversions when you are congested including downward facing dog and choose viparita karani (the fountain of youth) instead, also known as legs up the wall.
Some other yoga postures to include in your practice when hay fever symptoms are present are sukhasana (the easy pose), majaryasana (cat), balasana (child), setu bandhasana (half bridge), matsyasana (fish), apanasana (wind release), jathara parivartanasana (belly revolving pose) and viparita karani (the fountain of youth or legs up the wall).
It is important to realise that yoga helps only in the management and should not be regarded as a cure. Medical attention may still be needed for more extreme allergy symptoms.
Try the following Pranayama whilst in Supta Baddha Konasana (the lying down bound angle pose)
The Three Part Yogic Breath
Lie on your back with your knees bent, join the soles of your feet and let your knees fall out to the side. This is Supta Baddha Konasana (the lying down bound angle pose). Lift your arms above your head, soften the whole of the arm to the ground and lightly close your eyes. If you prefer you can take your arms out to the side and level with your shoulders, just work to soften your shoulders and relax the arms as you exhale.
Begin to establish a smooth and steady flow of breath, either through your nose or mouth depending upon congestion. Try to exhale through your nose when possible. Each time you exhale feel your body relax to the ground and allow all tension to leave your body.
When you feel ready divide your inhalation into three parts, as you inhale fill the bottom section of your lungs with air and take a small pause, then continue the inhalation fill the middle section of your lungs with air and take a small pause, continue the inhalation fill the top section of your lungs with air and take a small pause, now exhale slowly and completely. Repeat this technique for five or more breaths.
On completion return to a smooth steady flow of breath and remain in this position for as long as required. It is also possible to lower your arms so that they are out to the side and place a pillow or cushion under your upper thighs to support your legs.
These techniques when practiced together will deeply relax body and mind and encourage complete breathing helping to clear the respiratory tract of pollen.