So I felt a bit sick this past weekend.  It began innocently enough with a few sneezes that I instantly blamed on the hay that I sat on throughout a music festival.  But alas, the next day it was a full blown cold.  I dealt with it, giving it all kinds of immune boosting support.  It dawned on me though that my malady may have to do with all of the “stuff” that I hold onto. The day before the hay sitting festival, I was able to let go of my need to control it all, relax into the unknowing, and take a more joyful view of what was laying ahead of me.  And then I got sick.  

A small similar thing happened a few years post-divorce, with being diagnosed with breast cancer.  I had worked through the death of a marriage, was in a good relationship, great job as a yoga teacher, loving family, and wham!  For me, I really think that there is a strong relationship between mind and body.  It may have to do with the trauma or stress that works it way out slowly from the depths of my body and then surfaces later on when there is more balance in my life.  Maybe it waits until I am able to handle it to come out fully.

I will share with you a very good read about stress, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky.  He offers cutting-edge research with anecdotes and practical advice. He goes through many diseases and afflictions, bigger and smaller pictures.

The Breath
Lions Breath (Simhasana)

Sit comfortably either in Sukhasana (Easy Seat) or on your heels. Take a deep inhalation through the nose. Then simultaneously open your mouth wide and stretch your tongue out, curling its tip down toward the chin, open your eyes wide, contract the muscles on the front of your throat, and exhale the breath slowly out through your mouth with a distinct “ha” sound. The breath should pass over the back of the throat.
Some texts instruct us to set our gaze (drishti) at the spot between the eyebrows. This is called “mid-brow gazing” (bhru-madhya-drishti; bhru = the brow; madhya = middle).Other texts direct the eyes to the tip of the nose (nasa-agra-drishti; nasa = nose; agra = foremost point or part, i.e., tip).
You can roar two or three times. Then change the cross of the legs and repeat for the same number of times.
Benefits: Useful for people with bad breath, relieves stress and can be used when you need to ease a tense situation, relieves tension in the chest and face, move stagnation in sinuses.
(Yoga Journal)

The Poses
Reclined Goddess

Props: 2-4 blankets, neck roll, eye pillow, 1 cat
Benefits: opens the hips and groin facilitating blood and energy flow to the urinary tract and reproductive organs. Opens the chest and abdomen benefiting breathing problems. Shoulders release their tension. 

Stack 2-4 blankets lengthwise and sit at edge.  Rest upper body on blankets. Bring feet together and let the knees open to sides. Place more blankets or pillows under the knees. Open arms out to sides bringing them to 90 degree angle or less depending upon the openess of your shoulders.  When done, bring knees in and roll to right side, slowly sitting up. 

Wide Angle Forward Fold (with chair)

Props: chair, 2 blankets

Benefits: releases the pelvis which can help release tension in the buttocks, hips, belly and lower back.  Quiets the organs of digestion and elimination. Opens lower back area. As head rests on bolster, releases tension in frontalis where we hold stress in contracted state. Cooling and calming to overall body and provides a nice transition from day. Can help with sleep.

Add a folded blanket to seat of chair and another for you to sit on. You will straddle the chair bringing it in as close to your body as possible to support you as you forward fold.   Rest arms on the chair. Avoid too much pressure on the eyes.  To lesson any strain in the lower back, sit on a single or double-fold blanket.  Can add blanket rolls under the knees. Stay for 5 to 10 minutes. 
*note that for some students the breath can be constrained. Practice belly breaths to begin with.

Supported Bridge

Props: 4 blankets, neck roll, eye pillow

Extras: blanket for warmth
Benefits: Expands the chest muscles, opens the lungs, balances the glands, quiets the nerves and releases tension in the nervous system, increases oxygen intake to the brain, can stimulate the immune system (thyroid)

Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift butt and slide the stack of 2 or 4 blankets under the base of your spine. Find a comfortable position, then let the upper back release on the floor. Arms are relaxed at sides or resting on belly. Feel chest and belly rise with each breath. Roll gently to one side when done and inhale up to seated.