This inability to do exactly what I love when it comes to asana and the abundance of sick or sniffly people around me got me thinking, how do you still "practice" yoga when your're under the weather? I have a few ideas, pulling from what I've actually done over the past week, and thought I would share them with you today. But let me also say that these tips are for people who are struggling with seasonal allergies or sinus infections--for people who, like me, can still go about their day, albiet uncomfortably, but are just under the weather enough to be unable to practice--not those who are so weak that they're stuck in bed or unable to do much of anything.
So, here are my tips on how to practice when you can't practice. Because after all, yoga is all about linking movement with breath, and if you can't breathe through your nose, it can become pretty difficult to focus on anything else...
Yoga For When You Can't Do Yoga
1. First and foremost, listen to your body. This is one of the BIGGEST lessons that we can learn in class, and as a teacher, it is one of the things that I talk about the most. If you're too sick to practice, but push yourself to go to class anyway, you're not practicing yoga. If you listen to your body and don't go, congrats! You're already practicing yoga! I think this is one of the hardest things to do on a daily basis (at least, one of the things that I struggle with most).
2. Rest. Again, this can be a hard one for all my fellow go-go-goers, but is equally important. If you follow Step. #1 and decide that it's best not to practice today, don't then fill that time up with something else. Use that time to rest so that your body can heal. Every time that I get a sinus infection (which is, sadly, often), I almost always get so sick that I have to get on antibiotics to kick it. This time, however, I followed my own advice and used the time that I would have been practicing to sleep. I think this played a HUGE part in my ability to kick the bug without meds. Allowing yourself time to rest and heal when you need it is a big part of practicing yoga.
3. Find the poses that are accessible, and do them at random times throughout the day. When you're under the weather, doing anything active can feel like too much. Often just sitting at your desk and making it through the workday can leave you exhausted, and getting up the energy to practice yoga or even a few poses at a time can be too much. Similarly, an achy body can be hard to stretch. What I've been doing over the past week is just doing a pose here and there throughout the day. If I've been sitting a lot, I'll get up and do Ardha Hanumanasana (half-splits) or Pigeon for just a couple of moments on each side. Or if my back is hurting, I'll do a quick supine twist. It doesn't have to be a lot, but just a little bit of stretching can do wonders for an otherwise stiff, achy, sick body. If restorative poses don't aggravate your breathing too much (I know lying on my back can be a no-no when I have respiratory issues), they can also be a fabulous way to get your practice on when you have no energy.
4. Make your feel-better rituals into moments of meditation. I don't know about you, but when I'm sick, even drinking tea or using my neti-pot can feel like a chore--another thing I don't have the energy to do but still have to do. Instead, try to think of these things as a chance to be present. Make the act of drinking tea into a chance to do a mini mindfulness meditation. Each time you get up to blow your nose, remind yourself to be in the moment, no matter how sick you feel. Be fully aware of how your cough drop tastes and feels in your mouth. I know it's hard, but it's a very simple way to practice mindfulness in your daily life and after a while, find the same mental state that you find after an hour-long practice.
5. Read about yoga. Although it can make you sad that you're not practicing, reading a book about yoga philosophy or personal yogic journeys is a great way to stay connected to your practice without having to move your body. If you're looking for a book that's less cerebral (what I need when I'm sick!) but still somewhat yogic, Poser: My Life in 23 Yoga Poses, is a fun one, as is Hand Wash Cold and The Tao of Pooh (I haven't read it, but everyone raves about it!).
Feeling better yet? I hope so! Some of the other ways that I've made the past week more relaxing: lighting candles while I worked (and sniffled), buying special Aloe tissues (which make all the difference!), using my neti-pot as much as humanly possible, drinking LOTS of tea, and indulging in some mid-day rest periods.
I hope that you don't run into the same semi-sick situation, but if you do, don't forget to practice your yoga--even if you can't make it to your mat!