Seasonal nasal allergies, often referred to as hay fever, are triggered by pollen in the air. Ragweed pollen appears each fall, while newly blooming trees, grasses, and weeds are the culprits in the spring and summer.
Though many find relief in physician-prescribed medications, there are several yoga practices that may help to alleviate allergy symptoms, including runny noses and inflamed sinuses. While there are no studies that document improvement in people with allergies who use these techniques, there also is no risk, so if you have allergies, you may want to give it a try.
It should be noted, however, that the isolated use of these suggestions will probably not offer instant relief. Those who are already engaged in a regular yoga routine will get the most from these recommendations, and may already be enjoying the benefits of less stress and a healthier immune system.
Recommended Breathing Exercises
Kapalabhati breath consists of a series of rapid, forceful exhalations and passive inhalations. This has long been believed to clear out the nasal passages where allergens lurk, and thus offer some relief from irritation. This is a heat-generating breath, however, so limit yourself to a single round at the start of your practice. I recommend learning this breath from an experienced teacher, as you may become lightheaded if you do it incorrectly.
Nadi Sodhana is a calming, balancing breath. You must be able to breathe through both nostrils to do this pranayama, so it may not be possible if you are extremely congested.
Shoulderstand and other inversions open the nasal passages for improved drainage. Do not hold the pose longer than a few minutes, however.
Bridge Pose - Setu Bandha Sarvangasana
Bridge Pose and other backbends help to expand the chest and lungs, giving you increased breathing capacity.
Recommended Yoga Types
- Some think that vigorous practices that heat up the body aggravate their allergies, while others find getting sweaty helps drain and clear the nasal passages. If you fall into the former group, practice hatha yoga, Iyengar, or gentle vinyasa when you are suffering from allergies. These types of yoga will give your body the benefits of stretching without generating too much heat. If the heat helps you, Bikram and Ashtanga may be appropriate. (See the yoga style guide for more information.)
Yoga Journal, Breathe Easy by Alice Lesch Kelly
Yoga Journal, Allergy Antidote by Angela Pirisi