Whether you have allergies, bronchitis or a respiratory flu, chest congestion can make breathing quite difficult and uncomfortable. Yoga offers a way to help clear congestion, open nasal passages, and facilitate easier inhaling and exhaling. In fact, many regular practitioners notice that yoga actually helps reduce the onset and severity of respiratory ailments, according to Dr. Timothy McCall, author of “Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing.”
To release congestion and ease breathing, try poses that expand and open your chest. Dr. Michael T. Murray, author of the “Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine,” recommends Bhujangasana, or Cobra pose, where you lie on your stomach with your elbows bent and your hands on either side of your chest, then lengthen and lift your head, shoulders and chest off the floor. Hold for a few breaths.
Setu Bandha Sarvangasana, or Bridge pose, also opens your chest, relieves stress and stimulates the lungs. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart and parallel. Lift your pelvis and clasp your hands under your seat or reach for your feet. Use a block under your sacrum for extra support. Breathe evenly and deeply.
Reclining Bound-Angle Pose
Substitute a full-out yoga practice with a restorative respite. Get out your props for the relaxing Supta Baddha Konasana, or Reclining Bound-Angle pose. Use a bolster stacked with as many as three folded yoga blankets to support and lift your chest, a folded blanket under each arm and blocks under your knees. Stretch your arms overhead for a good chest-opening before settling into the pose. Stay here for as long as 15 minutes.
Supported Forward Bends
If any of these chest-opening poses cause too much coughing, try supported Forward Bends. Do Balasana, or Child’s pose, over a bolster lifted in the front by a block underneath. To open and relax your hips at the same time, try a supported Upavista Konasana, or Wide-Angle Forward Bend, resting forward over a bolster or a chair seat. Boost low energy with Viparita Karani, or Legs Up the Wall, using a bolster under your seat and a rolled-up blanket under your neck.
Dr. Murray recommends applying menthol-based preparation on your chest before bed to help clear the airways and increase blood supply to the thalamus, which controls the immune system. A neti pot helps you clear up clogged nasal passages. Dr. McCall suggests chanting “Aum” because the “ahh” sound resonates in the chest and may loosen mucus in that area.
- Yoga Journal: Feel Better
- “Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide”; Larry Trivieri, John W. Anderson, Burton Goldberg Group; 2002
- Harvard Medical School: How to Boost Your Immune System
- "Yoga: The Path to Holistic Health"; B.K.S. Iyengar; 2001
- Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine; Michael Murray N.D.
- Yoga as Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing: Dr. Timothy McCall