Sniffly, achy, and stuffy? Try these seven yoga poses for sickness relief.

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A sick-day checklist might look something like this: tissues, cough medicine, thermometer.

But what about… a yoga mat?

You might not always think of stretching as a way to ease the symptoms of the common cold and flu, but a variety of yoga poses are known for their ability to mitigate everything from sinus congestion to digestive woes.

Yep! In fact, there’s even evidence to back it up.

According to 2018 review, regularly practicing yoga is linked to reduced inflammation, making it a useful complementary intervention for populations at risk of or experiencing inflammatory diseases.

A 2013 study of 120 people undergoing chemotherapy for the first time showed reductions in nausea and vomiting as well as self-reported anxiety and depression after practicing yoga. The researchers noted this was due to yoga’s effect of normalizing the movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract and increasing parasympathetic activity.

Whether you start off every morning with yoga or are a never-stretcher, you may benefit from poses that target individual symptoms.

Try these seven options for natural relief.

Even when you’re not sick, you may enjoy the sweet release of Child’s Pose.

It turns out this gentle posture is good for more than just relaxation: It could help soothe nausea.

According to Caroline Young, a yoga teacher, registered dietitian, and owner of Whole Self Nutrition, you can help ease the discomfort of nausea with gentle stretches and a focus on the breath.

“Nausea is a stressful experience, so I suggest turning toward a slow, gentle, and restorative practice with an emphasis on full-belly breathing, which will help to soften the stomach muscles and start to alleviate nausea,” said Young.

She specifically recommends practicing a restorative Child’s Pose with a pillow or bolster supporting your torso.

How to do it:

  1. Kneel on your mat with a pillow or bolster placed lengthwise in front of you.
  2. Spread your knees wide, keeping your big toes touching.
  3. Sit your hips back, resting your buttocks on your heels.
  4. Lean forward and drape your upper body over the pillow or bolster, allowing your head to rest on it.
  5. Stretch your arms out toward the top of your mat.

This simple pose is what’s known as an inversion, meaning it reverses blood flow to the brain. This is intended to improve circulation, reduce swelling in the legs and feet, and calm stress levels.

While more intense inversions may actually increase pressure to the head, this gentle version doesn’t require the head to be below the heart. This makes it a good one to try when a cold or flu is accompanied by a headache.

How to do it:

  1. Sit on the floor facing a wall. Lay down on one side with shoulders and head to the floor.
  2. Roll onto your back, perpendicular to the wall, lift your legs, and scoot your tailbone forward until it’s very close to or touching the wall.
  3. Walk your legs up the wall until they’re straight or nearly straight.
  4. Find a comfortable position for your arms and hands. They can stretch out wide or rest at your sides.
  5. Remain in the pose for up to 20 minutes.

Tip: Start with 5 to 10 minutes in this pose. If your legs and feet start to feel like they’re falling asleep, bend your knees toward your chest for a few moments to reset blood circulation.

There’s no misery quite like the stage of a cold when congestion gets stuck in your chest. Sometimes it feels like nothing will shake loose the phlegm rattling around in your lungs!

According to Young, poses that open the chest — like Camel Pose — can help clear away lingering mucus in this area. This modified version is gentler on the lower back.

How to do it:

  1. Kneel on your mat with your knees hip-width distance apart and feet hip-width distance behind you.
  2. Lean slightly back and, one hand at a time, carefully place your hands pointing downward on your lower back.
  3. If it feels comfortable, allow the head to slowly drop backward, opening the throat toward the ceiling. Skip this part if you’ve experienced a neck injury.
  4. Breathe into your open chest.

Tip: Come out of this pose safely by slowly tucking your chin forward, then bringing hands to your hips and slowly bringing your hips to your feet.

Much like Camel Pose, Cobra Pose expands the chest, which allows for deeper, fuller breaths.

Not only can deep breathing help relieve chest congestion, but it might also decrease overall feelings of pain.

According to a 2022 review, slow, deep breathing was associated with significantly lower pain scores.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your belly on your mat with feet pointed behind you about hip-width distance apart.
  2. Place your hands palms down underneath your shoulders with elbows at your sides.
  3. Push up off your hands, raising your chest and upper body off the ground. Roll your shoulders down and back, and keep your neck long.
  4. Gaze forward and breathe deeply.

Downward-Facing Dog does it all! Besides stretching your hamstrings, calves, and Achilles tendons, this classic pose is an inversion that can take pressure off an aching head and even support blood flow to the sinuses.

Use downward-facing dog as part of a hatha yoga practice for cold and flu relief.

A 2019 study found that hatha, the type of yoga that combines physical postures with breathing techniques, can help alleviate symptoms of allergic rhinitis (inflamed nasal passages due to allergies).

How to do it:

  1. Get on your hands and knees on your mat with fingers pointing forward and knees hip-distance apart.
  2. Curl your toes under and push into your hands, lifting your hips into the air and lengthening your legs toward straight. Your body should form an inverted V shape.
  3. Spread your fingers and outwardly rotate the inner elbows toward the front of your mat.
  4. Let your head hang down and slide your shoulder blades away from your ears.

Another headache-reliever, Rag Doll Pose gives your body permission to release by hanging limp.

“Headaches might be the result of holding tension in the upper body, so any pose that helps relax your shoulders, neck and upper back — like Rag Doll Pose — may be beneficial,” said Young.

How to do it:

  1. Stand on your mat with feet hip-width distance apart.
  2. Raise both arms up to the sky, allowing the hands to meet, palms facing each other, over your head.
  3. Release the arms and bend at the waist with slightly bent knees. Let your arms dangle down in front of you.
  4. Continue to fold with arms dangling toward the floor, or grasp each elbow with the opposite hand.

Tip: Swaying from side to side in this pose can be especially soothing.

If your particular bout of illness involves diarrhea, you may want to try a shoulder stand or the less intense plow pose.

Inverting your digestive system can help relieve pressure, as well as slow and calm the digestive process.

How to do it:

  1. Lay on your back with your legs bent, knees pointing upward, with feet planted on the ground.
  2. To come into Plow Pose, lift your legs and hips overhead by pressing the palms down at your sides for leverage. The feet may or may not touch the floor above your head.
  3. If you want to move from plow to shoulder stand, you can straighten the legs and point the heels of the feet toward the sky. With elbows at your sides, place your hands on your hips to support yourself.
  4. Draw your thighs together, keeping your weight in your upper back and arms, not the neck!

When you’re trying to shake off sickness, some gentle yoga stretching can help do the trick.

No matter what, you’ll likely leave your mat feeling stabilized, strengthened, and refreshed.

Sarah Garone is a nutritionist, freelance writer, and food blogger. Find her sharing down-to-earth nutrition info at A Love Letter to Food or follow her on Twitter.