Gentle yoga routine to try if you're recovering from mild Covid

When you’ve had Covid, or are in the early stages of your recovery, rest is vital.

Your body needs to fully recuperate and replenish all the energy it used to fight the virus. Remember, it can take up to 12 weeks to feel completely back to normal after having Covid, and those with long Covid can struggle with debilitating symptoms for much longer than that.

Covid, even a mild case, needs to be taken very seriously. Recovery activities should be careful, mindful and gradual. And if you are still experiencing significant symptoms – such as headaches, breathlessness, coughing, fevers or fatigue – then you need to focus on rest.

However, after that stage, some gentle movement can be really beneficial – if you feel up to it.

‘It can be tempting to go all-out with exercise after being cooped up, but it’s really important to be symptom-free before you start. I’d advise waiting around seven days after your symptoms clear up before you start trying to get back to your normal routine,’ says Dr Kathryn Basford, Asda Online Doctor by ZAVA.

When you’re symptom-free, yoga can be a great activity to help your muscles and joints get back to the best, and to help you feel calm and resilient in the face of recovery.

Can you do yoga if you have had Covid?

‘Yes, I do think it is good for people who are recovering or are symptom-free with mild Covid to do home yoga, only if they are feeling up to it,’ says Chatty Dobson, yoga teacher and owner of FLEX Chelsea.

‘It’s up to the person to know if they feel up to it, everybody is different. If they do or don’t have Covid, yoga is great as it connects your breath with the movement. It makes you breathe deeper, it expands the airways, all of the things we need to be doing.

‘Whether that is pure asana (so moving practice) or just sitting still with your hand on the heart and one on the tummy.’

Which yoga poses might help?

Chatty says heart opener movements are great – such as gentle back bends.

‘It’s winter, so we are cold and huddle ourselves over to protect our organs and this closes everything up and makes us also feel vulnerable and shy,’ she says.

‘We want to open up our shoulders, open up our lungs. This might be sitting down and catching hold of opposite elbows behind your back and drawing forearms down towards your bum or towards the floor.

‘If you’re more flexible in your shoulders, you could do the same but interlace your fingers behind your back.

‘You could roll up a pillow and lie with soles of feet together, knees wide apart (if comfortable for your hips, alternatively can have legs straight or bent with knees to sky).

‘Roll up your pillow as much as you can and lie down on it so that the long way of the pillow goes in line with your spine. Open your arms out wide to a T and lie there. You can let your head go, open up the chest and the airways. Five minutes of this would be great.’

Which yoga poses are good for anxiety?

Covid doesn’t only cause physical symptoms, it also does a number on our mental health – and there’s a lot of anxiety about.

For those who have had Covid, there’s anxiety about getting better and the financial implications of being unwell, and the possibility of infecting others – and for everyone else the risk of catching the virus is a huge source of stress.

Yoga can be fantastic for tackling the mental implications of this illness, as well as the physical.

‘For anxiety, sitting down and breathing is the easiest thing to do,’ says Chatty.

‘If you count your breaths, your inhale is your Yang (active) and exhale is your Yin (calming), so if you can make your exhale longer than your inhale then you will calm down more.

‘Childs pose is also very nice, with your forehead to the earth. 

‘Following a simple sun salutation is also good for anxiety as it becomes that simple moving meditation, so once you’ve done it two or three times you sort of forget what you were doing. If you’re concentrating on the breath and the movements, you get into the rhythm and the flow so it can take your mind off things.’

Gentle yoga workout for recovery

Breathing

The most effective way to calm yourself is to stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths.

Better yet – take a comfortable seat (you don’t need to sit in full lotus – sit as upright as possible, but lean against a wall, or deep back in a chair). Close your eyes, get comfortable – move any clothes, jewellery or cushions that you think might annoy you, soften your jaw, relax your forehead.

Take a deep breath in through your nose, blow up the belly like a balloon, open the mouth and sigh it out.

Then, sealing the lips, inhale to a slow count of four, exhale through the nose to the count of six.

Repeat at least five times, but as many times as you need to feel at peace.

Pointers: 

You may need to start with shorter breaths (ie. in for three, out for five), that’s fine. Your lung capacity will build up over time.

If you find it hard to breathe into your belly you’re not alone, but maybe rest your hands on your tummy so you can actively feel it rise and fall.

Why does it work?

Our inhale is ‘Yang’ – it creates energy within the body (think of all those cells getting new life with each inhale) – and the exhale is more Yin (rest and digest). So with a longer exhale in our breathing we are activating that relaxed state within the body, which lowers the heart rate, and subsequently calms the mind, and rest of the body.

Forward fold/ragdoll

When we forward fold we stimulate blood flow to our head. You can do this in a basic forward fold or a headstand depending on your yoga practice – both are effective.

Being inverted detoxifies our adrenals, which has been found to decrease depression.

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, bend your knees deeply, fold forward at the pelvis, then catch opposite elbows and sway yourself backwards and forwards and side to side.

Don’t be tempted to try and straighten your legs; it’ll cause pain in the lower back and hamstrings and completely defeat the point of this pose making you feel better.

Focus your attention on your breathing (something as simple as feeling how far up the nostrils you can feel cool air swoop in, and the difference in temperate of your exhale down the nostrils can be a great distraction).

Legs up the wall

Lie down on the floor with your bum as close to the wall as possible, then put your legs up the wall (so you’re at a right angle).

Stick your arms out wide, palms to the sky. The leg inversion will calm you and relieve any pain in your lower back, and the outstretched arms opens the chest making it easier to breathe.

If it’s not comfortable, you can place a pillow or cushions under your bum to raise it a bit. Lie here with the eyes closed breathing gently for as long as you can.

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