Allergy Relief, the Yoga Way

By Claire Diab and Dennis Boyle

During spring, many people may find themselves troubled by allergies. Allergies are caused by hypersensitivity to an antigen or allergen. These sensitivities to antigens are caused by responses that range from discomfort produced by itchy watery eyes to sneezing and sinus congestion. Extreme cases induce asthmatic attacks, anaphylaxis, bronchoconstriction, and even circulatory collapse. Allergic Rhinitis seems to be among the most typical seasonal environmentally triggered acute episodes commonly affecting millions of people every year. Allergic Rhinitis, also known as hay fever, is triggered by airborne allergens plant pollens, molds, dust, animal dander, wool, food, and air pollutants. Allergic reactions occur that cause a change in the cell membrane.

These membrane changes cause degranulating vasoactive amines to go into the tissue. Histamine is a vasoactive amine, which commonly causes conjunctival mucous secretion, itching, redness in the eyes, capillary leak, and nasal secretion. During this occurrence, those who suffer from allergies may resort to over-the-counter antihistamines to reverse the allergic response.

Well, we’re here to tell you that the relief you seek from stuffy head, watery itchy eyes, post nasal drip, and headache is not far away. The philosophy of yoga incorporates the union of the mind, body, and spirit through breathing, movement, and relaxation techniques. By incorporating yoga breathing techniques into your daily routine this season, you’ll be amazed at how effectively they can decrease your allergen symptoms while improving your overall mental, spiritual, and physical well being.

Alternate Nostril Breathing:

  1. Close your right nostril with your right thumb and inhale through the left nostril.
  2. Hold the breath, closing off both nostrils.
  3. Exhale through the right nostril, keeping the left nostril closed.
  4. Inhale through the right nostril.
  5. Hold the breath, closing off both nostrils.
  6. Exhale through the left nostril, keeping the right nostril closed. (Steps 1-6 comprise one cycle.)

Special Notes:

a) This is performed with a smooth, steady, and subtle breath.

b) Relax into the rhythm and flow of the breath, without forcing or straining.

c) If your raised arm gets tired, support it by bending one knee and propping your elbow against it. Or, hold your elbow with the opposite hand.

d) Listen to your body for the appropriate rhythm of inhaling, holding, and exhaling. The rhythm will be different for each individual and will vary slightly from day to day.

e) The suggested practice is 20 to 30 minutes daily. You may wish to start with five minutes a day and build your practice gradually over a period of time.


Holding the breath should be minimized or omitted for those with unmediated high blood pressure, abdominal inflammation, lung conditions, or hernia.

Rhythmic Breathing:

  1. Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Place your hands on your lap.
  2. Breathe in through the nostrils 2 breaths in and 2 breaths out.
  3. Maintain a steady rhythm.
  4. The breaths in and out are performed with power and strength.

Special Notes:

a)  Practice rhythmic breathing going up and down stairs.  

b)  In the morning, sit at the side of your bed or on a chair with feet on the floor and perform rhythmic            breathing 2-5 minutes.

c)  Walk in the afternoon for 5-10 minutes (preferably outdoors), matching the breaths with each step.


Holding the breath should be minimized or omitted for those with menstruation, pregnancy, colitis, cancer in the abdominal region, recent surgery, untreated high blood pressure, emphysema or other severe lung condition, and hernia.


Claire Diab is an internationally recognized Yoga therapist. She is the director of the Yoga Program for the Chopra Center founded by Dr. Deepak Chopra and Dr. David Simon. She is an adjunct professor of Asian Studies at Seton Hall University. She is the author of several books and DVDs on Yoga including “Yoga For Firefighters.”


Dennis Boyle is a retired fire director and acting chief with the West Orange (NJ) Fire Department. He was the recipient of the 1999 New Jersey Deputy Fire Chiefs “Fire Officer of the Year” award.

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