Ask the Yogi: Should I do yoga when I am sick?

red nose

Q: Should I do yoga when I am sick? I hear that you can ‘burn out’ a cold if you exercise.

A: Although I have heard people say that before, there is absolutely no evidence that exercise will shorten the length of a cold. While moderate exercise does improve our immunity, when we exercise intensely we temporarily lower our body’s immunity for a short while. This would mean if you are exercising enough to feel you were ‘burning out’ a virus, you would be creating an overall lowering of your immunity and receiving no benefit.

When we are ill we need to rest. Our body is marshaling its forces to defeat a viral or bacterial invader. The last thing we need to do is put our body in competition with itself. When we exercise we place demands on our body to fuel the muscles and divert protein to muscle building. When we are ill we need to reserve our energy and protein for our immune system.

We also should be considerate of others when we are ill. Going to a yoga class when we are at an infectious stage of illness exposes the other students to our illness. It is bad enough that we are often infectious before we even have our first true symptom, but to knowingly go to a class when we know we are sharing our illness is not kind at all.

Do yourself a favor the next time you are sick. Stay home and rest. Once you return to health then start back with a gentle yoga routine. Not only will your body thank you, but all your classmates will thank you for not sharing your cold.

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