It’s cold and flu season here in New Zealand. And this past week, I’ve been sick.
Somehow, being sick is always hard for me to admit. As Kara-Leah has recently written, yoga has come to be seen as a bit of a cure-all. So a yoga teacher getting sick? What’s up with that?
My first instinct – deeply ingrained from my pre-yoga days – is to power through. So last week, as I was sitting at my desk entering data into a spreadsheet for a big project at work, although I felt myself growing weary, I kept going forward.
It was only as I left the building and began walking down the hill to the bus stop that I realized that this wasn’t just a case of Microsoft Excelitis, but that there was something actually wrong. In addition to the sore throat and runny nose I’d had for a couple of days, I was now lightheaded. And had the chills. And of course, with Big Work Project looming over my shoulders, this was about the worst possible time to come down with something.
Powering through was not going to work. It was time to listen to my body. And what my body needed was rest. And as much fluid as I could give it.
In her new book, Yoga Cures, Tara Stiles recommends yoga and breathwork to repair a cold.
Stiles suggests practicing breath of fire, alternate nostril breathing, and seated spinal twist when suffering from a cold to strengthen immunity, clear the nasal passages, and bring the nervous system back into balance. Yoga Journal too has advice for gentle practices to support the immune system.
When I got home to my flat, I unrolled my yoga mat, and laid down in savasana. I plugged in my ipod to the stereo, and listened to a recording of Richard Miller’s yoga nidra practice in the hopes that meditative yoga would help with whatever illness was brewing inside.
I followed my yoga nidra practice with my favorite home brew for cold symptoms: hot water with fresh lemon juice, garlic, honey, and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper.
It sounds gross if you’ve never tried it, but isn’t that bad. In my experience, it helps to shorten the duration of a cold and is actually quite soothing. The lemon juice is high in vitamin C and decreases toxicity in the body. The garlic contains phytochemicals that kill bacteria. The honey is packed with antioxidants, and helps treat sore throats and other bacterial infections. The ginger boosts the immune system, and the cayenne pepper helps to clear the sinuses (and adds a lovely kick!)
And I have to admit, I did feel a little better afterward.
But the next day, I was still sick. Feeling too weak and achy to move farther than from the bedroom to the couch and back again, I called out sick to work. And much to my dismay, I cancelled my yoga class scheduled for that evening.
My forehead was burning up, and my fingers were like ice. I pressed my hands into my temples, hoping that each might benefit from the temperature extreme of the other.
Too exhausted for an asana practice, I returned to the mat in savasana for another round of yoga nidra. I connected to my breath. I made a sankalpa (resolve) to be healthy.
Once again, it was time to just lie down and breathe. And to truly listen to my body.
And instead of resisting the fact that I wasn’t feeling well, I invited that sensation in.
I allowed myself to truly feel the heaviness in my head and pain in my sinuses, the aches in my low back near the kidneys, the feeling of complete and utter exhaustion, and the sensation in my nose, which was somehow both runny and congested all in one. I let myself really feel the coldness of my body, despite the space heater right beside me and sunshine streaming down on me through the windows.
And then, when the yoga nidra was complete, I resumed my regularly scheduled position of lying on the couch.
Feeling dehydrated, I made my lemon homebrew again, and followed it with plain water. For lunch, I made myself a large bowl of miso soup. Miso is one of my all time favorite foods, and is the perfect sick day food. Virtually effortless to prepare, it’s high in antioxidants, vitamins, and protein, and lowers acidity levels in the body. The sea vegetables in miso soup also contain essential Omega-3 fatty acids. Sometimes, I even have miso as a morning snack.
I was tempted to have soup again for dinner, but my partner suggested I try something a bit more substantial. Since she was the one cooking, I wasn’t going to argue. She selected a head of fresh cabbage from our refrigerator, and set to work.
Nutritionist Johnny Bowden has called cabbage:
Indeed, cabbage is rich in vitamins C and E, and is said to stimulate the immune system. It also protects the body against cancer-causing free-radicals and indoles. Additionally, cabbage is a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, Omega 3 fatty acids, manganese, and folate.
So turning to cabbage on a sick day is not a bad idea.
In this case, my partner made one of my favourite recipes that I had brought with me from the States.
It was so good that I ate two full bowls.
Later that night, my fever broke. And immediately afterward I felt heaps better.
Was it the yoga nidra?
The lemon homebrew?
But I’m incredibly grateful regardless.
If you have other comfort foods or home remedies for colds that you’d like to share, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear what works for you!
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