So, on Sunday Morning’s class, two of my students announced they had terrible hangovers, and one made straight for the sofa in the corner and lay down with a blanket over her! Good energetic start! The other just felt a bit "thick headed".
Once I had coaxed her off the sofa and onto her yoga mat and got them all sitting with an upright spine, we did a few rounds of Kapalabhati or shining skull breath to clear the head. It is really a kriya, cleansing practice, rather than a pranayama (breathing practice). it’s warming, creating heat and energy so a good start to a practice – and the day – and clears the nasal passages, so it's also great to do at the tail end of a cold you just can’t shift. I tend to do it in the shower each morning to clear my head and nose for the day!
Basically, sit with a long spine, breathing in and out though the nose. Then breathe in and exhale fast and forcefully, drawing the naval back towards the spine and gently lifting in and up with the pelvic floor muscles (Mula Bandha) with each exhale. The inhalation is passive, just happening naturally, between the succession of fast exhales. For many students, just a round of ten, slow but vigorous exhales is enough; but you might build up to 20 or 40 exhalations, sounding a little like an old steam train! Three to five rounds is enough to clear the airways and the head!
Warning - don't try this is you are pregnant,and on the first few days of your monthly bleed, or if you are asthmatic. Also if your hangover is the kind that makes you feel nauseous!
After breathwork and a gentle seated warm up, the students started a slow flowing practice building in a few gentle twists to aid digestion, energise the body and release toxins. As always the students are their own best guides to how far they take their practice each time they visit the mat, and half way through the class, the student who had made straight for the sofa, asked to be put into a restorative posture, so I grabbed bolster, blankets and blocks and put her in a supported restorative child pose.
The other students meanwhile continued with the flow class around her. She joined us all in pigeon and for guided relaxation
It reminded me of a teacher who one said that for a full six months, a man would come to her class and just lie at the back on his mat and relax, and not join in with anything! He obviously felt secure and found the environment conducive to rest and relaxation and that is what he felt his body needed.
Your own modifications and observations in class do not have to be so drastic, but remember to check in with yourself every time you revisit the mat, and see where you are physically and mentally and get to learn when and where to push yourself and when to ease off, truly tailoring your practice to suit yourself.