Sore throat, stuffy nose, achy muscles. I get the same thing every year. It starts with a little congestion that lingers for a few weeks before it turns into a cough so loud and annoying that I’ve noticed strangers cross to the other side of the street to avoid me. I don’t blame them. I do everything I can avoid that horrendous cough, too.
Unfortunately, I’ve had that yucky, congested feeling lately, and I’ve been hellbent on keeping it at bay. When I’m under the weather, I’m always torn about whether to continue my regular yoga practice or just sit it out until I’m back to normal. I know that practicing yoga always makes me feel better when I’m well, but when I’m starting to get sick, I always wonder if a little extra rest won’t help me nip it in the bud before it gets worse. After all, yoga is not about powering through.
With this in mind, I skipped my practice for a few days last week. Instead of practicing my Triangle Pose, I “rested” the way many of us rest: I checked my email, perused my Facebook feed, texted a friend. The problem is, this kind of rest just doesn’t get the job done. After a couple days, I realized I felt how I always feel when I skip my practice: stressed out, anxious, stiff, grumpy, and on top of it, I also still felt sick.
It’s ironic, really, that as a culture we’re always striving to be more productive, but when it comes to resting we are so incredibly inefficient. As a yoga student, I should know better.
So I changed my approach. I removed myself from the media that so often pulls me away from the more important stuff. I went to my prop closet and pulled out every bolster, blanket, block, strap, and eye pillow I have in my stash. I set myself up in the most supported Supta Baddha Konasana (Supine Bound Angle Pose) ever. My spine rested on a bolster, my knees supported by blankets. I put a strap around my waist and looped it over my feet. Then, I breathed. (OK, I kind of snorted. My nose was stopped up, after all.) I did maybe two more poses, Viparita Karani (Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose) and Supported Child’s Pose. For the first time in a very long time, I felt completely held. And when I was done, I could tell that allowing myself to really, truly relax wasn’t just good for my body, it helped me to clear my mind and let go of some of the anxiety I was holding about getting sick in the first place.
I hope that the next time I’m fighting off a cold, or just feeling run down or tired, I will remember this and take a more efficient approach to rest. Restorative poses are magic. They won’t make a cold go away, or make up for lost sleep (oh, how I wish they could!), but in just a few minutes they help me feel like I can go about the rest of my day with a bit more ease. That’s something I’ll never be able to say about checking my email.