April Showers Bring May Flowers… And Allergies





I love the warmer weather and array of blooming flowers and trees, but I could do without the allergies that plague so many of us this time of year.  Luckily, your yoga practice can help reduce allergy symptoms.  By practicing pranayama (breathing exercises) such as Kapalabati (“Skull Shinning Breath”), you can help cleanse your nasal passages of the accumulated pollen.  Your yoga practice can also help reduce allergy symptoms in a more subtle way, by relaxing the nervous system, and moderating the immune system’s response to the pollen invaders.  Rather than releasing stress hormones and histamine, that increase inflammation, actions that calm the nervous system, turning off the “fight-or-flight” response, can curtail some of your symptoms.

Try It:

Kabalabati Breath is a rapid diaphragmatic breath that consists of swift and forceful exhalations followed by passive inhalations.  Think of a quick blow of the nose.
Instructions: Sitting in a comfortable seated position, take a few deep breaths and relax.  Inhale and allow your belly to expand as it fills with air.  Exhale quickly through the nostrils by contracting the abdominal muscles and then passively allow the inhalation to happen.  Repeat several times.  Once comfortable, you can begin to increase the pace of your exhalations.  After each round of 10-40 expulsions, exhale completely, hold the breath out briefly.  Inhale when you need to, again holding the breath briefly at the top of the inhale.  Exhale completely and return your breath to normal.
Take notice if your whole body is moving as you preform this breath.  Try to keep your hips and shoulders still and let the action come from the abdominals.  You can place your hand on your belly to feel this.  Make sure you are letting the air flow back in between exhales or you will quickly find you run out of steam.
{If you are pregnant, menstruating, have high blood pressure or recent abdominal surgery, do not practice Kapalabati.}

Forward bending and Restorative poses are calming to the nervous system.  Try combing the two in a supported child’s pose.

Instructions: Kneel on your mat with a bolster or a few folded blankets.  The height of support required, varies by person, but don’t skimp!  Place the bolster or neat stack of blankets in front of your pelvis, so your stomach and chest will be gently supported when you bend forward. Drape your body over the support so your back body feels long and spacious.  Let your body release onto the support.  You can turn your head to the side if that is comfortable for the neck, or rest your forehead on the blankets.  Let your arms relax on either side of the bolster.

Rest in supported child pose for several minutes, or as long as you feel comfortable.  Let your muscles release, and feel the ebb and flow of your breath.  Maybe even visualize yourself on the beach, because that’s a part of summer I can look forward to!