I hate following trends sometimes, especially lame ones like “cold and flu season.” But, despite my best intentions and healthy ways, I fell hard with a cold a few weeks ago and I’m just now rounding the corner out of it. Thank goodness! The other day, after yoga, I said to Thaddeus in all seriousness, “That was really awesome to be able to breathe through my nose – it really makes a difference in practice.” After weeks of fake ujjayi due to insane congestion, I had almost forgotten what it was like to be able to breathe properly in yoga!
I personally do not use a lot of Western medicine. I took antibiotics once last year when I got sick in India, but other than that, it’s been a long time since I’ve taken any Rx drugs at all. Partly that’s because I’m blessed with good health, partly because I’m afraid of the doctor’s office but also, I’ve not always had the best results with pharmeceuticals. I get super nauseous and spaced out from things like Dayquil, Sudafed or any type of painkillers. I’ve only recently started taking Advil again, and only when I’m desperate.
So what do I do when I feel like an achy, owey, miserable snotball?
Well….I have a few tricks that seem to ameliorate the symptoms and help my body work through the stuff of a cold/flu. Although I don’t believe you can do much to make a cold immediately “dissappear” once it’s got you, at least you can make yourself feel a little bit better with natural remedies and soothing techniques while you wait out the worst of it.
Let’s talk yoga first – When I feel absolutely wretched, even if I don’t have a fever (the traditional deciding factor), I stay home from Mysore for a day or two. For my constitution, I find it’s best to take a little extra rest and do some gentle practice at home. By this I mean mostly seated and supine stretches and some restorative poses like supta baddha konasana, supta virasana and viparita karani. I try to do a little Breath of Fire to clear my passages, but sometimes that’s just impossible. I tend to hold my sickness-tension in my shoulders and upper spine so I find it’s very beneficial to encourage movement in my back with spinal twists, shoulder rolls, neck rolls, and other gentle circling/opening movements.
When I have the energy to do a more substantial practice, I stick to Primary Series for it’s healing properties until most of my symptoms have ceased. But, I had an interesting experience the other day – I realized that after 2 weeks of mostly Primary during my illness, I was still feeling very fatigued from my cold and the busy nature of my life right now, so I decided to practice just my Second Series poses (after standing series and surya namaskars of course). I felt so energized by this practice; it really helped me keep my energy level up throughout the day. It seemed to offer me the chi-boost I needed to move through the last little lingering sickness.
Herbs and Medicines – I rely on various tinctures to help boost my immunity and clear up mucus. I use a few blends that contain herbs like goldenseal, Echinacea, boneset, and hops (I use a CO brand called WishGarden Herbs currently). I’ve had great success in the past with Boiron’s homeopathics – Oscillococcinum if I can catch my cold/flu before it hits and then ColdCalm once I’ve succumbed to it. If I have a sore throat or a bad cough, I often use Zinc or Honey lozenges and maybe some natural cough syrup like Elderberry syrup. Now that I’m past my sickness, I’ve been taking a bit of ginseng extract to boost my energy levels back to normal
I also make some potent concoctions (much to Thad’s chagrin) of apple cider vinegar, cayenne, lemon juice, raw honey and grated ginger – these can sometimes be a bit rough to get down but I think they are really helpful for moving through the sickness. When I’m feeling less than vibrant, I use it as a reminder to be extra good about taking vitamins and probiotics and eating simple nourishing food like cooked whole grains and vegan soups to help my body regenerate.
Self-Care – Extra rest and hydration are of the utmost importance. Because I, like most people, tend to chill easily when under the weather, I drink warm water throughout the day instead of cold. I rely heavily on herbal teas such as Tulsi tea (immune booster and respiratory health enhancing) and homebrewed ginger tea (warming and soothing). Yogi tea is cleansing, warming and full of spices with antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Make a big pot of it to keep on your stovetop for a few days – this way it’s always available and it makes your house smell yummy and comforting.
Ending my day with a hot bath helps me relax into the night and ease tension and body aches. I like to toss some Epsom salts, almond or sesame oil and essential oils of lavender and eucalyptus oil in my bath. Sleep with a humidifier if possible – this really helps with the dry sore throats and nasal passages. Neti pot everyday and also try a tulsi or eucalyptus essential oil steam to help you regain the ability of deep breathing. It’s super easy and quick and can make a huge difference in the way that you feel. Simply boil water, pour it in a bowl, use 2 or 3 drops of essential oil, cover your head with a towel, stick your nose in the bowl and breathe long and deep.
These are my simple (very basic but effective!) tips for natural healing during this cold and flu season.
Do you have any helpful tips, medicines or recipes you use to help heal naturally? Please share!
Love and blessings for abundant health!