Sick Dog vs. Downdog: Illness/Congestion and your Yoga Practice

**YouTube flow coming at the end of the article, so be sure to keep reading!**

I almost started with “It’s that time of year,” but then I realized — it’s almost always that time of the year. If it’s not cold and flu season, it’s allergy season. It seems we are fighting congestion of some kind from some irritant or germ on a more and more regular basis.

Frequent questions surround regarding if yoga during illness is recommended, beneficial, or enjoyable. The short answer is it depends 🙂 Keep reading for the longer answer.

First, remember that I am not a doctor. 🙂 I do not claim to be giving medical advice here but rather simply sharing my experience and non-doctor thoughts.

Second, remember that you are the only one that knows what it feels like in your body and your head. You need to respond and act accordingly.

Third, keep others in mind. If you are contagious (running a fever, etc.), a studio class is not in the cards for you. There may be a few restorative poses you will enjoy but at home. (A YouTube option for you is below.)

Ok — now that those reminders are out of the way, the longer answer can begin. Yoga while you are under the weather….it is going to vary a lot from person to person, but you can yoga while congested as a way to help improve your health and as a way to prevent getting sick. The gentle inversions in a class can help you clear out congestion. A consistent yoga practice can also help you build immunity.

That doesn’t mean, though, that you should force your body into a power hour of yoga sculpt. Even if you love a fast-paced flow, that is not what the body may be craving or be able to do. No matter what you decide to practice or not, remember that your body is fighting off illness as well as whatever you are asking of it.

Yoga is a lot of things and comes in a lot of variations. You may attend a studio class and do only part of the cued class. You may want to cue up a YouTube video that is restorative or slow flow, or you may crave your own sequence of poses that the body is asking for and needing. As we discuss in class — your yoga practice is your own. Honor your body every day in every practice.

Below are some of the poses I enjoy most when I feel congestion coming on or settling in. (Keeping a Kleenex handy is also a good idea.)

Standing forward fold/Ragdoll


Simply hinging from the hips and hanging heavy can be a simple but effective move to relieve pressure in the head, relax the back and neck, and maybe break some of the congestion up. Some enjoying swaying a bit as they hang.



Similarly, downdog is a nice inversion that can help move the congestion and help alleviate pressure and congestion. Hold for three breaths, see how you are feeling.


Child’s pose

Sometimes inversions like Downdog are too intense. Child’s pose can be a shape that is more gentle for the head and restorative in nature. I sometimes like to massage my forehead on the mat while in child’s pose.


Thread the Needle

Occasionally, you may find one side is more congested than another, so keep that in mind with this pose — it may make one side more enjoyable or less or one side more beneficial/helpful.

Thread the needle can help with stress you might be carrying in your shoulders from being under the weather as well as help move things around.



Bridge is an effective way to move blood back into the core as well as to engage some muscles. Sometimes if we have been resting for a while or feeling stiff, it can feel good to gently ease back into movement.


Legs up the Wall

For Legs up the Wall you can use a wall. You can also put a block under the hips or even walk the hands under the body to help support.

You should feel a cooling sensation as the blood rushes back to the core. This is a great pose to help the body recover.



Savasana is always a good idea. The picture shows traditional savasana, but there are many ways to adjust savasana, as you see in the YouTube video below.

Ideally, the gentle yoga loosens the body and the congestion so that you are able to find a comfortable position to really relax and rest in savasana for at least five minutes (hopefully/maybe even longer!)

Want a sample flow to put these all together? You got it! And when you are feeling back to your self, I look forward to seeing you in class!

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I help busy career and family-focused individuals feel stronger by putting themselves back on their priority list and into their schedules. I value community and safe yoga, laid-back and heart-forward practices. 500 E-RYT (Experienced Registered Yoga Teacher) through Yoga Alliance with over 500 hours of accredited training and 2,500 hours of leading yoga and meditation for my community. Online Yoga Concierge, Owner: You, Yourself, and Yoga in, Kirksville, MO

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