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From itchy eyes, swollen nasal passages, and runny noses, seasonal allergies can definitely be a drag to deal with come the change in weather. Some choose to take over the counter or prescription medication to alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms, while others choose more natural approaches (like yoga!) or like herbal remedies or nasal sinus washes.
Can certain yoga poses or practices help to alleviate seasonal allergies? While you may not find relief instantly, there are certainly many people who use the practice of yoga to ease seasonal allergy symptoms, build a healthier immune system, and reduce inflammation in the body.
If you are looking for a supplement to your usual allergy remedies, beginning a regular yoga practice may be the perfect addition. There are certain postures and breathing exercises that can help to promote healthier sinuses, reduce inflammation, and clear stuffy noses.
There are no medical studies that officially document the use of yoga for seasonal allergies, however, many do find that their symptoms lessen with a regular practice. Relief may not be felt instantly, but seeing as a yoga practice is beneficial to the body in so many ways, you will be sure to feel positive results in your body and mind.
Can Yoga Help with Seasonal Allergies?
A regular yoga practice can absolutely help to alleviate symptoms of seasonal allergies. Yogic breathing exercises and yoga poses help to calm central nervous system, providing a greater sense of relaxation and calm in the physical and mental body. A balanced well being helps to regulate and strengthen your immune system, allowing your body to better respond to allergens from pollen, trees, or weeds.
Pranayama, or breathing exercises, help to clear the respiratory system and sinuses, while poses like shoulderstand and plow promote drainage and relaxation. A consistent but simple yoga practice of 15 minutes a day, can help you manage your seasonal allergy symptoms and possibly even rid of them completely!
15 Minutes of Yoga to Ease Your Allergy Symptoms
15 minutes of yoga every day or a few times a week is much more beneficial than a longer practice every other week. A consistent 15-minute practice can:
- Help your body be healthier and stronger
- Reduce stress
- Stabilize your immune system
- Promote a general sense of wellbeing in your physical and mental body
There are certain pranayama, or breathing exercises, that you can practice to clear your nasal passages; as well as physical asanas, or postures, that you can practice to reduce inflammation, promote relaxation, and improve drainage in your body. By practicing these specific breathing exercises and yoga poses for just 15 minutes a few times per week or every day, you may begin to notice your seasonal allergies lessen and you may even ditch your prescribed allergy medication.
Breathing Exercises for Seasonal Allergies: 5 minutes
Beginning your yoga practice with pranayama, or breathing exercises, not only helps to clear your nasal passages, but it also helps to calm the nervous system and allows you to be present in your body and in the space.
- Start your practice by sitting in a comfortable position and focusing on your breath.
- Keep your spine straight, shoulders relaxed, and collar broad as you begin to center yourself with your breath.
- Notice any thoughts that enter the mind, and simply allow yourself to be present in your body with your breath. See if you can begin to lengthen each inhale and exhale and slow down your breathing.
Once you are relaxed and centered, take a few minutes to practice one of the following pranayama exercises. You can choose to stick with one technique each practice, or practice both of them if you have the time.
Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Sodhana)
Allergies can affect your immune and respiratory system, causing a stuffy nose and clogged respiratory system. The following breathing exercise opens up your nasal passages, strengthens your sinuses, and clears your respiratory system for easier and clearer breathing.
- Sitting in your comfortable seated position, begin by folding your right pointer finger and middle finger into your hand and placing your thumb on your right nostril and your ring finger on your left nostril.
- Keeping the eyes closed and the breath slow, deep, and even, plug your right nostril with your thumb and breathe in deeply through your left nostril.
- As you exhale through your right nostril, plug your left nostril with your ring finger.
- Repeat this on the other side by inhaling through your right nostril while plugging the left, and exhaling through your left nostril while plugging the right.
- You can repeat this breathing exercise for a few minutes, relaxing as you breathe, and lengthening each inhale and exhale.
Skull Shining Breath (Kapalabhati)
This is a great breathing exercise to practice if you are looking to clear out your sinus and nasal passages. This exercise consists of forceful, quick exhalations, is practiced to detoxify the body, and is good for clearing out your respiratory system.
You can practice this exercise in an easy cross-legged position, or sitting your hips to your heels with your knees together.
- Place your hands on your knees and make sure you have a lengthened spine.
- Close your lips and part your teeth slightly to keep your jaw relaxed.
- Take a passive inhale, and forcefully exhale out through your nose.
- As you exhale out through your nose, feel your belly button quickly snap in toward your spine and your belly draw inwards.
- Repeat this breath for a cycle of about 30 seconds, and slowly begin to build up to a few more minutes.
Top Yoga Poses for Allergy Relief: 7 minutes
There are a variety of different yoga practices and traditions, as well as an infinite amount of yoga poses. If you are looking to find relief for your seasonal allergy symptoms, these are the top yoga poses that you should practice for allergy relief. Practice each posture in succession for 5 breaths, and slowly work your way up to longer holds.
Part 1: Backbend Variations
Backbends are also wonderful poses to practice for seasonal allergies.They open your throat and chest, allowing for more space in the front of your body.
You can choose to take a deeper backbend like wheel pose, or a more restorative backbend like supported bridge pose. Prior to practicing your physical asanas, I definitely suggest warming up. For a beginner friendly warm up, check out our simple seated warm up.
- Start by laying down your back. Bend your knees up toward the ceiling and bring both of your feet flat on the mat.
- Make sure that your feet are parallel and hips width distance with your fingertips lightly grazing your heels.
- To come up, press your heels down on the mat, lift your hips and chest up, and start to gently slide the shoulder blades closer together down your back. Interlace your fingers behind your body, and stay for 5 deep breaths.
- Once you feel comfortable with bridge pose, you may choose to come into a deeper backbend afterwards.
- Set your feet up the same way as bridge, and place your palms flat on the floor, close to your ears with your fingertips pointing toward your shoulders.
- As you lift your pelvis up, lift your head up, and rest the crown of your head on the floor.
- Stabilize through your legs, hands, and heels, and lift your hips up toward the ceiling. Press down firmly though your palms and heels as you feel this backbend opening the entire front side of your body.
Supported Bridge Pose
If you’d like to take a more restorative approach, come into supported bridge instead.
- Follow the same set up for bridge pose, but instead of interlacing your fingers behind your back, set your block at the lowest height and place it underneath your sacrum. Allow the block to support you in this restorative backbend.
Part 2: Inversions
Shoulderstand is an inversion that improves overall drainage in the body and can help to open your nasal passages. This pose can be modified by either placing a block at the sacrum and keeping the legs up, or resting the legs up against a wall.
- To come into this posture, lie on your back and bend your knees in toward your chest.
- Lift your hips and buttocks of the mat, and using your hands to support your lower back, begin to straighten your legs up toward the ceiling.
- Keep your neck steady and gaze soft, with your chin tucking toward your chest. Gently begin to hug the shoulder blades a little closer together, feeling the weight of your body rest on your shoulders.
- As a beginner, keep your hands supporting your back and stay in the pose for 5 deep breathes. As you build up your practice, you can stay for a longer amount of time and even try a variation by placing your legs into lotus position.
- To come out of the pose, support your back with your hands, bend your knees, and slowly lower your spine back down to the floor.
You can come into plow pose directly from your shoulderstand. This posture also helps to clear your sinuses and respiratory track, while promoting balance and relaxation in the body.
- From shoulderstand, keep your back supported by your hands and start to bring your legs over your head. Try to get your toes and the tops of your feet to touch the floor and stay either with your hands supporting your back, or interlace your fingers and squeeze your shoulder blades together more.
- Stay for 5 breaths and build up to a longer period of time that feels good in your body.
- You can choose to keep your legs straight, or alternatively, you can bend your knees and bring your knees down on the mat, close to your ears. If you are taking this variation, keep your fingers interlaced behind your back, or reach the arms up overhead and touch your toes with your fingertips.
- To come out of the pose, place your hands on your back to support your spine.
- You can choose to come out through shoulderstand by lifting your legs straight up to the ceiling, or keep your knees bent and slowly lower your entire spine back down to the mat.
Immediately after shoulder stand or plow pose, it is always nice to follow up with a fish pose to open up the chest and bring space and oxygen into the body. Fish pose opens up the front of the body including the lungs, throat, and chest, and regulates the lymphatic system.
- Lying down on your back, bend your elbows in close to your ribs and point your fingertips straight up to the ceiling. Gently move your chin away from your chest, puff your chest up toward to sky, and place the crown of your head on the mat. Hug the elbows in closer together, and feel a gentle squeeze of your shoulder blades down your back. Feel spacious in the front of your body and relax your face and breath. Stay for 5 deep breaths.
- You can choose to stay there, or lift your elbows of the mat, straighten your arms and place your palms together up overhead. From here, you can keep the legs down on the mat, or with the legs together, start to lift your legs off of the floor.
- To release this position, bring the legs and elbows back down to the mat. Tuck your chin gently back to your chest and feel your shoulders and shoulder blades relax back down on the floor.
Massage and Relaxation for Allergies: 3 minutes
Seasonal allergies can be stressful to deal with. As you practice yoga, you will notice tension leaving your body, and you may feel less stressed and calmer. Ending your yoga session with a relaxing eye and sinus massage and savasana is the perfect way to finish off your practice.
The eyes can be greatly affected by seasonal allergies and symptoms can include itchy, watery, and red eyes. In addition, you may find that your nasal passages get blocked up, causing pressure and tension in your sinuses.
You can practice this massage either laying down or sitting comfortably with your eyes closed:
- With your fingertips, gently begin to massage the temples, forehead, and space between the eyebrows. You can also massage higher up towards the crown of the head, and toward the ears or neck. Keep your eyes clothes, face relaxed and breath soft as you perform your massage.
- After you have completed your massage, take a few deep breaths in and out of your nose and feel yourself spacious and open.
- Gently lay down on your mat with your legs slightly apart, arms alongside your body with the palms facing up, and eyes closed. Enjoy this final resting pose, savasana, for at least one minute.
Natural Remedies for Seasonal Allergies
To compliment your yoga practice, you may want to supplement it with some other natural remedies to keep your seasonal allergies at bay instead of reaching for prescribed medication. These natural remedies can be used or practiced daily or whenever you feel your allergies acting up.
- Steam or Humidifiers: To clear your stuffy nose, you can sleep with a humidifier at night, or inhale steam to clear your sinuses. Fill a bowl with hot water, place a towel over your head and gently breathe in the steam. Test the temperature of the steam before you practice this, and feel free to add in essential oils like eucalyptus or lavender to the warm water.
- Nasal irrigation: You can safely use a neti pot daily to clear and clean your sinuses. Using sea salt and distilled water, gently pour water through each nostril and blow your nose after each wash. You can often feel the effects of the neti pot quite quickly, and will notice that you can breathe easier and clearer.
- Vitamin C: There are many foods that contain vitamin C, which is a natural antihistamine. Take a vitamin C supplement, or eat lots of citrus fruits, leafy greens and other vegetables with high vitamin C content.
- Probiotics: Found in yogurt, kombucha, and fermented foods, probiotics are essential for healthy gut heath. Strengthening your digestive health can help to reduce your allergy symptoms and support healthy bodily function.
What Style of Yoga is Best for Seasonal Allergies? Depending on your body, there are different practices that may be better suited for you. For some, hot yoga and strong vinyasa practices open up the sinuses, while for others, restorative or yin practices help to open them up more. Try a few different styles to see what works best for you.
Does Hot Yoga Help with Allergies? Many people swear by hot yoga or Bikram yoga for its many benefits, which include opening up the nasal passages. The heat and humidity may help to open up and moisten your sinuses, especially during the cold and dry seasons of the year.
Mariel is a writer and NYC-based yoga teacher. She has been teaching for a decade and is a life-long student of the ancient practice.