Pranayama for healthy lungs and better immunity
One of the biggest concerns as we learn to live with Covid 19 is whether our lungs are functioning properly and our immune system is strong enough to fight off germs. While we maintain hygiene and safety and practice physical distancing, one other healthy habit we can include is the practice of yoga, especially pranayama.
Studies show that Pranayama which involves the regular practice of certain breathing techniques is effective in improving lung capacity, which in turn can help prevent respiratory illnesses. The meaning of Pranayama can be interpreted based on the how the word is constructed:
Prana means “life force” or “life energy”
Yama means “discipline” or “control”
Ayama means “expansion”, “non-restraint”, or “extension
So loosely interpreted, Pranayama is a way to control our life force or our breath.
Shikha Mehta, Yoga Meditation Facilitator, shares these breathing techniques that are worth practicing daily and most beneficial for lung health. Most of them are safe for kids and adults unless specified otherwise:
This breathing technique helps clear the air passages, relieve congestion, reduce bloating and improve lung capacity.Pregnant women are advised to avoid Kapalbhati. Those with blood pressure issues and heart conditions should also avoid this breathing exercise.
Steps for Kapalbhati:
- Sit comfortably while keeping your spine erect.
- Inhale briefly through both nostrils, then sharply exhale through the nose while pulling your navel in toward your spine. The exhalation is short and quick, but very forceful while the inhalation is short and passive.
- Again, pull in your navel area as you exhale and relax when you inhale.
Do one set of 30 (Inhaling and exhaling 15 times respectively) and rest for a minute with some deep breaths in between. Repeat. If this seems strenuous, start with 15 and gradually work your way up.
2. Anulom Vilom (Nadhi Shodhana)
This breathing technique involves alternating nostrils while inhaling and exhaling. It helps clear the air passages, increases oxygen levels in the body and helps. The best time to practice Anulom Vilom is when one is very anxious, nervous or having trouble falling asleep.
Steps for Nadhi sodhana
- It can be done while sitting or lying down.
- Begin by exhaling all the air from your lungs.
- Press the thumb of your right hand on your right nostril to close and exhale through the left nostril.
- Then inhale through your left nostril itself. Be sure to breathe with your belly, not your chest.
- Once your belly expands with your breath, press your left nostril with your ring finger while keeping your right nostril closed with your thumb.
- Hold the breath for a moment.
- Then release your thumb and exhale through your right nostril only. Be sure to exhale all the breath out of the right side and pause before inhaling again through the same side. Seal both nostrils once you’ve inhaled on the right side and exhaled through the left side. A complete cycle of breath includes an inhalation and exhalation through both nostrils. If you are a beginner, you can inhale to a count of four, holding your breath for four to eight counts, then exhale for four counts. Perform up to 10 repetitions and observe how you feel. This technique should help you feel relaxed.
3. Ujjayi Breath
This is also known as ocean breath due to the sound it creates. It helps the lungs expand and expansion of the lungs and by focusing the attention on the breath it also helps with calming the
Steps for Ujjayi
- Find a place where you can sit comfortably with a straight spine.
- Take a steady breath. Inhale until you reach your lung capacity; maintain a tall spine.
- Hold your breath for a second, then constrict some of the breath at the back of your throat, as if you were about to whisper a secret, and exhale slowly through both nostrils. This exhalation will sound like an ocean wave or gentle rush of air. You should feel the air on the roof of your mouth as you exhale.
Repeat 20 times.
4. Belly Breathing
This is how we usually breathe as kids and ideally we should be breathing this way even as adults. This technique involves using only the nose for breathing and keeping the mouth closed at all times. Inhale deeply into the belly and allow the belly to expand. When you exhale allow the belly to relax.
Effect of Pranayama and Suryanamaskar on Pulmonary Functions in Medical Students https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4316242/