Ah, springtime. Flowers bud, new love blossoms, and, unfortunately for some, allergies abound. If you suffer from a stuffy nose, swollen sinuses, headaches, or all of the above, the sequence designed by Iyengar Yoga teacher
In all poses, it's crucial to get the proper action of the shoulder blades: They should move away from your head and forward toward your chest. When the shoulder blade action falls into place, you will feel a sense of spaciousness and relaxation in the neck and shoulder region, which will encourage the sinuses to open. Once that happens, you can focus on draining the sinuses with inverted poses. Even in the poses, though, it's important to keep your shoulder blades engaged while your face stays soft. "You really have to look for that feeling of calm and softness, despite the fact that you are working," Apt says. "While the upper back and shoulder blades work, the head, neck, throat, and eyes should remain relaxed."
Apt recommends breathing normally, because deep breathing can aggravate blocked sinuses. Yoga can't eradicate your allergies altogether, but it can provide some immediate relief that you'll feel in the form of less pressure in your head, more relaxation in your neck and shoulders, and a sense of spaciousness behind your eyes, forehead, and cheeks.
During the Sequence
Wrap it up. For Halasana and Savasana, you can wrap your head with a non-stretchy bandage. The light presence of the bandage encourages the facial muscles to relax, but if wrapped too tightly it can add pressure. Unroll the bandage around your forehead down to eyebrow level and around the back of your skull. Wrap it lightly so that it supports the forehead but doesn't put pressure on the eyes. Remove the bandage if you find breathing difficult.
After You Finish
Rest. Lie on your back in Savasana. With your arms by your sides, palms up, press your forearms into the floor and pull your shoulder blades away from your neck to roll the outer edges of your shoulders to the floor, and turn your upper arms out. The back of the neck should feel long, as though it were lengthening away from the feet. If the head tilts backward, place a blanket underneath the head and neck. The chest should feel broad, but with the throat and neck relaxed. Let the arms and legs relax completely.
With the exception of Chatush Padasana (which you can hold from 20 seconds to 1 minute) each pose in this sequence can be held for up to 5 minutes.
1. Balasana (Child's Pose)
2. Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog Pose)
3. Uttanasana (Standing Forward Bend)
4. Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose)
5. Dwi Pada Viparita Dandasana (Two-Legged Inverted Staff Pose)
6. Sirsasana (Headstand)
7. Chatush Padasana (Four-Footed Pose)
8. Salamba Sarvangasana (Supported Shoulderstand)
9. Halasana (Plow Pose)