The onset of chilly, damp weather is usually heralded by a cold. Sandra Grant explains how to minimise its miseries It starts with a tickle in the throat, then before you can lay in extra tissues you’re sneezing, have a runny nose and are feeling really under the weather. You have what doctors call an acute catarrhal inflammation of the respiratory tract, known as the common cold. Caused by a variety of viruses – which is why scientists have failed to come up with a cure – colds are highly contagious.
The good news is that daily practice of yoga strengthens the immune system, making it easier for your body to fight off infections, with pranayama (breathing) exercises especially helpful. And while there is no cure for a cold, there are plenty of ways in which you can minimise its length and severity. How yoga can help when the sniffles strike certain postures can help minimise the symptoms, but avoid very active asanas if you have a fever. If you’re feeling particularly bad, just lying in savasana, the corpse pose, and breathing deeply, will help. Cow pose – kneeling on your heels, sitting or standing – opens the chest. Raise one arm and let the hand drop down to your shoulder, grasping it with the other hand which is twisted behind and then up against your shoulder. Breathe deeply while in the pose. For another chest expanding exercise, stand upright and clasp hands behind your back, raising them as you exhale. The fish is helpful for all respiratory conditions. Lying on your back, arms by your side, you push down on your elbows, raising your chest as you arch your back. Particularly good for sore throats and getting rid of catarrh from your upper, respiratory tract, the lion posture, entails kneeling on your heels, then exhaling, mouth open, tongue stuck out, eyes widened.
Most breathing exercises will help unblock a stuffed nose and expand your lungs. Try forced alternate nostril breathing. Place your thumb and middle finger either side of your nostrils, then breathe in through both nostrils at once and exhale sharply, using your abdominal muscles. Avoid diary products as they are mucous-producing, which is the last thing you need when you have a cold. You should also cut down on your sugar intake, along with spicy foods, yeast and chilled foods or drinks.
General good advice seems to be to stay warm and take plenty of liquids. A good old fashioned whisky with honey and lemon is just as likely to give anyone a good night’s sleep!