Should You Practice Yoga When You’re Sick?

We are in the heart of cold and flu season and I thought I’d share my thoughts on the question: Do you practice yoga when you’re feeling under the weather? In my opinion, how you feel is central to how you answer that question. I’ve created a simple guide to help you decide if you should go to yoga class.

Final Stretching pose

Should you go to yoga class if…

You are perfectly healthy?


Go to class, have a great time, and work hard in class to boost your immune system. The whole Bikram yoga series is good for your health and immune system, but did you know the following poses are particularly good at warding off illness?

  • Pranayama Breathing (compresses lymph nodes in your neck)
  • Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee (one of the best postures for your immune system)
  • Wind Removing Pose (balances out your digestive system pH)
  • Spine Strengthening series (wonderful compressions on the lymph nodes on the back of your neck)
  • Fixed Firm (front side compression)
  • Half Tortoise
  • Final Stretching and Head to Knee Stretching pose (pictured above – more compression!)

You think you might have something because you had a temporary tickle in your throat?


Go to class silly! Some yogis when they advance in their practice and get in touch with their bodies go through this phase where they are hyper-obsessed with everything that they feel in their body. I had one woman tell me she couldn’t take class because last night she had a beer (gasp!) and could feel it coursing through her body.

Everyone around you is sick?


This is a great time to go to class on a consistent basis, load up on water, zinc and vitamin C. My favorite cold prevention remedies include: water, sleep, elderberry syrup, and rapid melt Zicam tablets (don’t get the generic brand, they just don’t work).

You have a scratchy throat and swollen tonsels?


This is a tricky phase since you can still turn around and beat that nasty cold. I think it’s still acceptable to go to class under this circumstance, please keep to yourself and wash your hands frequently. Work really hard in the following poses: Pranayama Breathing, Standing Separate Leg Head to Knee, Fixed Firm and take a deliciously long savasana.

You clearly caught something, throat hurts, congestion has happened. Occasional sneezes.


Let’s face it, you’re past the point of no return and you’re going to advance to phase six (listed below). Many teachers and students say that you can flush out a cold during a yoga class, and while that may be true, please spare everyone else around you and avoid going to yoga class.

You’re a nasty, virus fluid-laden, coughing mess.

Stay home!

There are hundreds of people who practice yoga in a studio in a given day and your grubby body, fluids and virus hands are touching everything. Just like you should stay home from work when you’re sick, please stay home and avoid contaminating the rest of your yoga family. Get some rest, drink a lot of fluids and come back when you’re healthy.


  • Blow your nose in your hands (in yoga or outside of class – it’s just foul folks).
  • Blow your nose in your yoga towel.
  • Throw discarded tissues outside your mat.
  • Cough without covering your mouth.
  • Sneeze into your hand or blow your nose and fail to wash your hands.


  • Wash your hands frequently.
  • Bring tissues with you on your mat if you think you will need them.
  • Stay home if you’re really sick!

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(Photo credit: icka – Flickr CC) 

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4 Responses to Should You Practice Yoga When You’re Sick?

  1. ginny March 26, 2015 at 8:04 am #

    Great advice! Well said. It feels so good to kick out an oncoming cold/illness, but absolutely no fun when you are next to a truly sick person in the studio!

  2. Louisa Koussertari September 15, 2015 at 11:28 pm #

    What about if you are recovering from an injury ie torn tendon from yoga practice that you are recovering from and can now do some poses but not all?

    • Lindsay Dahl September 17, 2015 at 10:11 am #

      Louisa, That would be a question for your doctor. I know many people who are recovering from injuries and sit out some postures and do others. Talk to your physician, I’m sure you can create a great game plan that works best for your body.


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