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The Best Yoga Poses for When You're Sick

Updated on November 25, 2013


These poses are restorative poses meant to promote relaxation and rest while still giving gentle stretches and rejuvenating your immune system. Before you start, take stock of how you're feeling. If you are feeling tired, stiff, or mildly headachy, go ahead and practice, these poses should help. If you are feeling nauseous or have major pain, proceed with caution. Twists may not be the best for you right now. The most important thing is that you monitor what you're feeling and don't push yourself if you feel major pain or nausea.

Make sure you are dressed warmly and comfortably, and have a mat and some cushions, bolsters, or blankets ready to use as props.


Reclined Twist

The reclined twist is a beautiful pose. Not only will it give your entire body an overall stretch, easing the sore, tight muscles that often arise with illness, but it detoxifies your organs. If you're feeling nauseous this might not be your best bet, so listen to your body and if it's too much, lighten up or back off completely.

Getting into it:

  • Lie down on your back with your knees bent and your arms straight out to the sides (if you don't have much space, bend your arms at the elbows for "cactus arms")
  • Let your knees fall to the right and turn your head to the left.
  • Breathe through your entire body, releasing your knees towards the ground if they don't quite reach, and your opposite shoulder as well.
  • Remain for 10-seconds up until 5 minutes.
  • Switch sides, resting in the middle for a few complete breaths.


If the standard twist is too much or not enough, try one of these variations.

  • Place your hand on top of your knees to help pull them towards the ground and give them more security in the pose.
  • Cross your bottom ankle over your top knee to increase the twist.
  • Extend your bottom leg straight and hold onto the foot of your top leg, stretching that leg straight across your body for the maximum stretch.
  • If it's too much stretch, place a pillow, block, or blanket underneath your knees.


Legs Up the Wall

Deceptively simple, Legs Up the Wall is a truly beneficial pose.

First of all, it is truly relaxing. It relieves pain in the feet and legs, can be beneficial with lower back pain, and is calming to the mind.

Secondly, Legs Up the Wall is beneficial to your immune system. By engaging in a mild, calming inversion, your lymph system, directly connected to your immunity, will reverse direction and be refreshed. For the true benefits of renewing your lymph system, hold the pose for at least 5 minutes.

Getting into it:

  • Find a space next to a wall that is comfortable (feel free to put down a yoga mat, blanket, or whatever else to help you be cozy on the floor).
  • Lie down on your side with your knees up near your chest and scoot in until your bum is right against the wall.
  • Turn over onto your back and extend your legs so that they are straight up the wall.
  • Breathe and relax.


  • For additional benefits to your lymph system, it can help to elevate your hips above your heart as well. Place a block, rolled up blanket, book, or other comfortable object, under your hips. Adjust until you feel comfortable. This will add a mild stretch for your spine and increase the benefits of the pose.
  • Spread your legs wide on the wall to add an inner leg stretch.
  • Bring the bottoms of your feet together for a bound butterfly up the wall.

You can also use a chair instead of the wall, lying on your back with your knees bent over the chair.


Supported Back Bend

Don't let the "back bend" scare you off - this is a very mild bend, and a passive, restorative pose. The perfect antidote to your sore, tight muscles, the supported back bend is a popular "heart opening" pose. That's fancy yoga talk for a pose the opens and gives a gentle stretch to the front of your body: your chest, stomach, hip flexors, and the fronts of your shoulders. Even your biceps if they're tight. Your spine will also receive a healthy stretch. All this adds up to reversing the effects of being hunched forward all day, whether at your computer, or curled up on your couch. It also has a deep relaxing effect that will promote wellness.

Getting into it:

  • Get a cushion, bolster, rolled up blanket or mat, and place it in one of two positions: lengthwise along your spine, or across your body just below your shoulder blades.
  • Lie back on your support and adjust as needed for comfort.
  • Extend your arms either straight out beside you or in "cactus pose" with your elbows bent.

Stay in the pose for 2-15 minutes. Feeling a little more stretch than you're used to along your spine is okay, so long as there's no pain.

Final Words

These are just a few poses that can help your body and mind relax and boost your immunity without overtiring you when you're not feeling your best. Remember that the best thing you can do when you're not well is to listen to what your body needs - sometimes you need a little push, but nothing more than that. If you feel any pain or nausea, stop immediately.

If you feel up to it, however, a more vigorous practice will have major benefits.


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