Bikram Yoga, Colds & Flu: Should You Come to Yoga Sick?


It may seem the heat of a Bikram Yoga class would clear a cough faster than you could say “Cold-FX,” but the truth is when you’re in the early stages of a cold or flu the best thing to do is to stay home and rest. That’s right, don’t come to yoga sick.

“If you’re sick you shouldn’t come to yoga and spread your germs,” warns BYV teacher Ulrike, a nurse. “Besides, the body heals better when you give it a chance to rest.” She adds that, if you want to use steam to treat a cold or flu, try doing it the “old-fashioned way” by boiling water, placing your head over the pot and draping a towel over your head to make a “tent” that traps the steam and brings it to your face and nasal passages. There are also certain herbs available that promote perspiration.

BYV teacher Roxana, a doctor, adds that coming to class sick creates a compromising and uncomfortable situation for other students. “When people know others are sick in class, they freak out a bit – and understandably so.”

You don’t have to stay away forever, though. Once the infectious stage of your sickness passes and you’re feeling more like your old, healthy self (no fever, certainly, and maybe only a bit of congestion remaining), it can be beneficial to come back to class to “clear out” the last traces of the illness. Just be sure to respect your fellow yogis by taking the following steps:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after class. (Need a refresher on how to wash your hands properly? Watch this slideshow by WorkSafeBC.)
  • If you happen to sneeze or cough in class, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue (there should be several boxes placed strategically around the room; if you can’t find any, ask the teacher).
  • Never place any used tissues directly on the studio floor; put them between your towel and mat until you can properly dispose of them after class (check our feature on Bikram Yoga Etiquette for more tips).
  • Be sure to listen to your body, only doing as much as you can. If you need to rest during certain postures, that’s fine. In fact, in his orange Bikram Yoga book, Bikram Choudhury suggests doing just the Standing Series when you’re recovering from a cold or flu.

Bikram Yoga to Boost your Immunity

In terms of reducing your risk of catching a cold or flu, Bikram Yoga can help. Not only will the heat improve the proper functioning of your immune system, certain postures – upper back bends in particular, like Bow Pose and Cobra Pose – can help open up the chest and lungs, providing a boost to the thymus gland, which is located in the centre of your chest and provides your T-cells (critical to the adaptive immune system) with their “education.”

Making sure your circulatory system stays in top shape will also help your general health. When your circulation is working optimally, white blood cells can travel easily throughout your body to fight viruses and infections. When blood doesn’t flow well, these little cells have a much harder time getting to where they’re needed. The proper breathing techniques, aerobic exercise and relaxation that make up the Bikram Yoga series are all said to help improve circulation. A great tip from Bikram: try holding Balancing Stick Pose a little longer to really get the circulation in your body going.


Chicken soup? Steam baths? What are your best tips for getting over a cold?

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  105. Stefan says:

    Bikram writes in his book that the standing series is good to do when having a cold or flu. So, that one can be done at home. I have tried it, doing the standing poses once, and it works great! (I am a solo home practioner, but go to studios when travelling.)

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