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The last thing you want to do when you have a cold (or, god forbid, the flu) is think about exercising. Your nose is congested, nc internal medicine raleigh north carolina your throat aches, your sinuses are about to explode … it’s probably all you can do to get up for a mug of tea, let alone work out. So it might surprise you to hear that one type of exercise might actually help when you have a cold or mild flu: yoga.

“Gentle and restorative yoga can be beneficial during a cold,” yoga teacher Bayu Prihandito, RYT-200, tells SheKnows. That’s because yoga can help you relax and improve circulation, he explains, and even potentially relieve some of your symptoms. And while you should continue to take your usual go-to cold relief products (yoga can’t fix everything), it’s true that science also backs up yoga’s feel-good power. A 2018 review found that a regular yoga practice is linked to reduced inflammation in the body, suggesting it may work as a “complementary intervention” for people at risk for inflammatory diseases (think: rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and more.)

That said, if you’re feeling fatigued or have a high temperature, it’s best to prioritize rest over yoga, no matter how gentle your poses are. “Always listen to your body,” Prihandito says. If you do decide to get on the mat, yoga teacher Antionette Pollard recommends practicing for no longer than 10 to 15 minutes and avoiding an indoor yoga class so you don’t get others sick. Opt for a slow, gentle at-home practice and start with the eight expert-recommended poses below.

Child’s Pose

“This pose allows for gentle compression on the sinus area, which can help relieve congestion,” Prihandito says. Folding forward also “promotes relaxation and eases tension,” he adds. He recommends using props like a bolster or pillow to ensure your body is fully supported, which will let you relax even further.

Here’s how to do Child’s Pose:

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Legs Up the Wall

This gentle, super-relaxing inversion promotes circulation by encouraging blood flow back to the heart, Prihandito explains. This can help with drainage and provide some relief from congestion. To modify this pose (and make it even more easeful), yoga instructor Teresa Adele, 200-RYT, recommends resting your legs on a chair instead.

Here’s how to do Legs Up the Wall:

Bridge Pose 

Want to open up your chest and lungs? This is the pose Prihandito recommends. Lifting the chest allows for better airflow, he says, and “can help in clearing mucus,” while the gentle backbend can stimulate your thymus gland, an organ that’s “critically important” to your immune system, according to experts.

Here’s how to do Bridge Pose:

Seated Twist Pose

This simple post “activates both the digestive and lymphatic system,” Pollard says, which promotes the movement of toxins through and out of your body.

Here’s how to do Seated Twist Pose:

Cobra Pose

Cobra pose encourages deep breathing, which is great for improving your lung capacity and function, Pollard says. This pose is a little more strenuous on your shoulders and arms, so only hold it for as long as it’s comfortable.

Here’s how to do Cobra Pose:

Dolphin Pose

Dolphin pose is another one that’s slightly tougher on your upper body, but can be very relaxing when you nail the position. Pollard recommends it for its ability to increase blood circulation and help alleviate sinus pressure.

Here’s how to do Dolphin Pose:

Supported Fish Pose

Supported fish pose “opens up the spine and may make breathing feel easier by stretching the muscles in the ribcage around the lungs,” Adele tells SheKnows.

Here’s how to do Supported Fish Pose:

Restorative Twist Pose

One of the most relaxing poses around, this restorative twist (also called a supine spinal twist) opens up your back and chest and seems to soothe every muscle in your body. According to Adele, this pose aids in breathing for similar reasons as Supported Fish Pose while also assisting with digestion and “and calming the nervous system, via vagus nerve massage, as you breathe.” For context, the vagus nerve runs from your brain through your neck to your chest and stomach, according to Mayo Clinic, and is a major component of your parasympathetic nervous system, aka the “rest and digest” part of your nervous system.

Here’s how to do Restorative Twist Pose:

Originally published November 2015. Updated March 2020 and September 2023.

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