by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
This time of year, you may find your nose running more than a marathon trainer on the treadmill. Put aside the tissues and follow these tips for relieving sinus congestion …
Although harmless, the common cold can make one feel miserable. Congestion, sneezing, and sinus pain can linger and affect your throat, chest, and ears. Ironically, symptoms usually interfere with good sleep when rest is needed most.
Often, a cold leaves its calling card before settling in. You probably have your own indicators when this unwanted guest is en route. Scratchy throat and fatigue are two common clues. Good news! If you can’t exercise it away (see “Build up Your Defenses” at www.fitnessandwellnessnews.com/health/build-up-your-defenses), workouts may help ease the symptoms.
Exercises to Clear the Air
Exercise can temporarily relieve nasal congestion. The increase in circulation clears sinus pressure and allows for easier breathing. An aerobic workout is especially successful in clearing congestion with its cardio focus. Although you may want to blend in with the bedding, movement provides the best relief. A stuffed nose is worse when lying down. Sinuses don’t have gravity working with them to drain cavities blocked by mucus.
Sinus congestion is also loosened by increased temperature in the body’s core. A runny nose may ensue, which, although annoying, relieves sinus pressure and stuffiness. Carry tissues during your workout, and expect a clearer head.
Force yourself to get moving, even just through your daily routine. Shower after waking to loosen the buildup of mucus in your bronchial and nasal passages. By then, you should be ready to lace up your sneakers and head to the Center.
Movements that Flow
You don’t need to be a yoga practitioner to benefit from what the ancients have discovered as effective sinus relief. Long before decongestants and breathing strips, our wise ancestors freed their breathing through basic body positioning.
Jeff Migdow, a physician who directs a yoga teacher training program in New York City, recommends poses that elevate the head and open up the chest.
Before you begin:
- Jeff suggests sipping on, and breathing in, ginger tea for maximum benefit.
- Other practitioners propose wrapping one’s forehead before starting. This aids congested sinuses while performing the poses. An ace bandage wrapped snuggly around the head works nicely. You can also lightly cover the eyes, tucking in the loose end of the bandage. (Even the sages can’t obtain relief with fabric flapping around the face.)
The following poses have proven especially beneficial for clearing the sinuses.
Standing Forward Bend (Uttanasana): Energizes the head and respiratory area; helps clear sinus congestion.
Stand with feet hip-width apart and rest your forearms on a chair seat. A blanket on the seat can act as a cushion for comfort. Hold two to five minutes.
Supported Bridge Pose (Salamba Setu Bandhasana): Opens up the chest and increases circulation to the upper torso.
Align two bolsters or two to four blankets on the floor, running the entire length of your body (the height of the support can vary from 6 to 12 inches). Sit on the middle of the support and lie back. Slide upward until your shoulders lightly touch the floor. Open arms to the sides, palms turned up. Rest with your legs stretched out on the bolster, or with knees bent and feet resting on the floor. Relax for a minimum of five minutes. (Sleep optional.)
Legs up the Wall Pose (Viparita Karani): Brings energy to the groin and opens the chest area to facilitate breathing.
Place a bolster four to six inches from the wall. With the back of the pelvis on the bolster, swing your legs up the wall. Drop your sitting bones into the space between the blanket and the wall and open your arms to the sides. If your hamstrings feel tight, try turning the legs slightly inward or move the bolster further away from the wall. Hold for a minimum of five minutes.
Supported Bound Angle Pose (Salamba Baddha Konasana): Opens the chest, abdomen, and groin; relaxes the nervous system.
Sit on the floor, knees bent toward the chest. Bring the soles of your feet together and let your knees open towards the floor. Support the outer thighs with folded blankets at a comfortable height. Sandbags or weighted cushions can be placed on each inner thigh to deepen relaxation. Release the arms out to the sides. Relax away tension. Remain in the pose for a minimum of five minutes.
The widely recognized Downward-Facing Dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) is also helpful in relieving sinus congestion.
Contact the Center’s Group Fitness director, who can guide you and offer additional information on yoga’s holistic healing benefits.
In addition to the direct relief exercise provides for the common cold, it also can increase energy when a virus has your supply locked in a tamper-proof container. Simultaneously, expending the energy you do have (in this positive way) helps relieve stress and produce more restful sleep. Both of these are necessary to rid off illness.
Rest and Recover
Be sure to allow a rest period. Regular, moderate exercise can be helpful in relieving cold symptoms. However, your muscles need to repair, rebuild, and strengthen from a workout. Rest allows energy stores to be replenished and damaged tissues to be repaired. This is especially important while your immune system is already under siege and your body rundown.
More than ever, stay hydrated. Sip clear fluids throughout the day. A moist throat is a happy one.
Still Desperate for a Deep Cleansing Breath?
Give these holistic remedies a try.
Irrigate Your Sinuses: The market is flooded with nasal sprays, some medicated and others saline solutions. Research has shown simple saline irrigation is effective at unclogging nasal passages, and reducing head pressure and facial pain.
The Neti pot, which originated centuries ago, is making a big comeback. This ceramic, homeopathic tool resembles a squat teapot. Fill it with warm salt water, tilt head over the sink or tub, and insert the spout into the upward facing nostril. Allow the water to drain out the other nostril, then repeat on the opposite side. In the yogi world, this nasal cleansing method is called Jala Neti.
The solution thins mucus, which helps eliminate it from the nasal passages. Those with sinus symptoms from colds, flu, allergies, or environmental irritants claim this form of irrigation reduces the need for antibiotics and nasal sprays. Research validates these claims.
Sharon LaForge, yoga instructor and personal training administrative assistant, recommends humming during the irrigation process. The vibrations help loosen congestion and open the sinuses. “Use of the Neti pot has prevented me from needing antibiotics over the years to treat sinus troubles,” remarks Sharon.
If you don’t have a Neti pot readily available, a two-cup teapot will suffice. Sharon suggests this recipe for sinus success: Fill with a quarter teaspoon of non-iodized salt dissolved in eight ounces of warm water.
Massage Your Face: Take your thumb and index finger and apply pressure on either side of the nose and under your eyes. As you massage your fingers along the sinus area, you can actually feel the sinus pressure shifting.
Freeze Your Feet: Soak a pair of socks in ice water. After a hot shower or bath, squeeze socks of excess water and put them on your feet. This temperature shift pulls blood from the head to your feet in an attempt to warm them. This helps relieve congestion and can also soothe a headache.
The average cold lasts a week to ten days. When all else fails, splurge for the softest tissues with lotion. If you can’t beat it, treat it.
“7 Poses to Relieve Cold & Flu Symptoms,” by Angela Pirisi at www.yogajournal.com.
“Exercise and Immunity,” by Elizabeth Quinn at www.sportsmedicineabout.com.
“Nasal Saline Irrigation and Neti Pots,” at www.webmd.com.
“Natural Sinus Remedies & Sinus Massage Techniques,” at www.chinese-holistic-health-exercises.com.
“Natural Ways to Relieve Congestion,” by Melody Dawn at www.ehow.com.
“Sinus Solutions,” by Erin Hull at www.yogajournal.com.
Sneeze (introductory photo): www.flickr.com/photos/mcfarlandmo/4014611539/
Neti pot: www.flickr.com/photos/denisemattox/3568027951/