How Yoga Can Relieve Your Allergies

Photo: Thinkstock
Photo: Thinkstock

By Kelly DiNardo

Yet another reason to say "namaste": A small 2010 study found that regular yoga practice may reduce inflammation in the body. "Inflammation, which can be triggered by stress, can worsen allergy attacks," says immunologist Gailen D. Marshall Jr., MD, PhD, who recommends yoga to his stressed-out patients.

We asked yoga instructor Sara Gottfried, MD, for the three best moves to help you feel better.

Alternate-Nostril Breathing

A 2008 study found that alternate nostril breathing-one of the most common breathing exercises in yoga-can increase your body's relaxation response.

Try it: Cover your right nostril and inhale through your left for a count of ten. Hold your breath for five seconds. Then cover your left nostril and exhale through your right for a count of ten. Inhale through your right nostril and hold for five seconds. Cover your right nostril again and exhale through your left. Do three more rounds.

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Downward-Facing Dog

Already stuffed up? This position might feel like you're putting more pressure on your sinuses, but Gottfried says that the release you feel when you stand up actually helps trapped mucus drain from your nasal passages.

Try it: Start on all fours with your hands directly beneath your shoulders. Raise your bottom, straighten your legs (it's okay to have slightly bent knees), and press your hands and feet firmly into the floor. Inhale and exhale for a count of five. Repeat five times. Then, walk your hands in close to your feet and slowly return to standing.

Supported Backbends

"When you have allergies, the muscles between your ribs may get exhausted from pushing air past blocked nasal passages, which can lead to more painful wheezing," says Gottfried. Backbends can soothe these muscles.

Try it: Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground and pulled in close to your bottom. Starting with your tailbone, slowly lift your back. When your back is completely off the floor, slide three stacked pillows under your lower back. Relax your shoulder blades down to the floor so your chest remains propped up. Hold for two minutes.

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