This morning, I did my usual practice (full primary plus second up to Ardha Matsyendrasana) even though I was feeling under the weather. For the last couple of days, I had been having this flu (runny nose, sore throat, feverish/clammy feeling, intermittent coughing). Yesterday (Sunday) was my designated rest day (I rest on Sundays rather than on Saturdays), so it was a good time to give my body a break from the practice. But this morning, I decided to practice anyway, because I figured that getting the prana flowing would be good for me.
I was right. I am feeling a lot better now. My throat isn't half as sore as it was yesterday, and that clammy/feverish feeling is pretty much gone. I still have a bit of a runny nose, but I think I'll live :-) But because of my less-than-physically-perfect condition, there were some interesting and possibly even comic episodes during practice this morning:
(i) Somewhere in the third Surya B, I started feeling a little winded, probably because I was taking in less oxygen through my partially blocked-up nasal passages. As a result, I had to slow down a little, and try to take longer/deeper breaths.
(ii) A couple of times during primary, I had to get up and blow my nose, as the nasal blockage was making it impossible to breathe.
(iii) In Ardha Baddha Padma Paschimottanasana on the first side, bringing the right knee into the left hip crease induced a big coughing fit. I'm not sure why this happened: Maybe whatever caused the cough had something to do with whatever internal organs that are located in the left side of the stomach. In any case, the coughing caused the knee to bounce up and down in half-lotus. Which would probably have looked quite ridiculous, even hilarious if somebody had captured this moment on video. On the other hand, it could also have been dangerous if one were suffering from some kind of knee issue. Fortunately, this was my stronger knee.
(iv) Despite feeling under the weather, I actually managed to grab both my ankles when I went into Chakrabandhasana/Tiriang Mukhottanasana after the third drop-back. Over the last week or so, I had been making steady progress towards being able to steady my breath in this very challenging backbend, so that I no longer pop back up like a jack-in-the-box. This morning, for instance, I actually succeeded in holding the ankle-grab on both ankles for five breaths before coming back up to standing. However, when I came back up, my nose was so blocked up that I had to stumble across the room to get some tissue paper to clear my nose before going into Paschimottanasana. Trying to walk (even for just a few feet) immediately after coming up from Chakrabandhasana is definitely not fun.
Other than the above incidents, the rest of the practice went well. Talking about practicing while feeling unwell also brings to mind a few things about this topic that I have learned from my teachers over the years. Over the last few years, a couple of teachers I have studied with have recommended that one should practice to the best of one's ability even if one is not feeling well/feeling under the weather. This is what these teachers have to say about practicing while not feeling well/feeling under the weather:
(1) David Williams: At a workshop I attended in Gainesville, Florida, a few years ago, Williams recommended that if one is able to get out of bed, one should try to do a few Surya Namaskars (or as many as one's physical condition allows), and then quickly bundle oneself under thick blankets and go into Savasana. The prana flow stimulated by doing however many Suryas one is able to do functions to enable the body to heal faster from illness.
(2) P.J. Heffernan: I studied with P.J. for a year when I lived in Milwaukee. I once asked him about practicing while not feeling well/feeling under the weather. His response was pretty much the same as Williams': Do whatever practice your body allows you to do on that day, and then rest. He also added that the only condition (other than being deathly ill, in which case you would probably have bigger things to worry about anyway) in which he would recommend taking a break from practice is when one is suffering from diarrhea and/or nausea. He did not explain further, but I'm guessing it's because it would be too much of a hassle to have to race to the bathroom every two minutes (not to mention the messy/stinky consequences if one were to, ahem, lose control of mula bandha on the mat...).
Well, I hope you find these recommendations by Williams and P.J. useful. Actually, come to think of it, this may be a good time to do something I haven't done in a while: Conduct a poll! On the top-right-hand corner of this blog, you will find a poll on this topic. Please take a moment to answer it. And if you have any personal experiences/views to share on this topic, I'll also love to hear from you.