Take a deep, healing breath
The lungs are key to good health. During these trying times, maintaining good lung health is especially important. Experts guide us through some exercises that keep them supple and efficient
The Novel Coronavirus attacks the lungs, primarily. Obviously, the spotlight has been turned on the lungs, and how to strengthen them. Breathwork is breathing exercise or breathing technique sequences done with conscious effort. By intentionally changing the breathing pattern, a breathwork practitioner can experience many physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual benefits.
"Deep breathing can help restore diaphragm function and increase lung capacity. The goal is to build up the ability to breathe deeply during any activity, not just while at rest," says Dr Vijay Kumar Chennamshetty, Consultant Pulmonologist, Apollo Hospitals.
Humming while exhaling is one such technique. It helps increase nitric oxide production in the body. "Nitric oxide helps with neural plasticity (building and repair of the nervous system) and it dilates blood vessels, enabling more oxygen to be delivered throughout the body.
Humming is also calming and soothing, it reduces stress and can help the patient remain in restoration mode. This is the science behind chanting Oum kaaram (Aum). This chant might facilitate a connection of the physical body with the universal energies (cosmic energy), thus facilitating healing from a cosmic angle," explains Dr Vijay Kumar.
If bed-ridden patients do not exercise, the base of the lungs can partially collapse, which increases the risk for infection. "The muscles that help you breathe need to be strengthened as you recover from any lung infection. These muscles include the diaphragm as well as the muscles in the chest wall," says Dr Vijay Kumar. Walking is a recommended exercise. During your recovery period, it's advisable to walk to improve overall conditioning.
l Week 1: 5 minutes, 5 times per day
l Week 2: 10 minutes, 3 times per day
l Week 3: 15 mitimes per day
Yoga expert Mansi Gulati shares a few breathing techniques:
Nostril breathing: Yogic breathing practices may improve lung function and respiratory endurance.
How it’s done:
l Sit in a comfortable position with your legs crossed.
l Place your left hand on your left knee.
l Lift right hand up toward your nose.
l Exhale completely and then use your right thumb to close your right nostril.
l Inhale through left nostril and then close the left nostril with your fingers.
l Open the right nostril and exhale through that side.
l Inhale through the right nostril and then close that nostril.
l Open the left nostril and exhale through the left side.
This is one cycle. Continue for up to 5 minutes. Always complete the practice by finishing with an exhale on the left side.
Pranayama breathing: Pranayama is the ancient practice of controlling your breath. Two very effective pranayama techniques:
1. Vritti Pranayama: You can practice this in any comfortable seated posture with your spine straight and eyes closed. You can count in your mind as you inhale and exhale to ensure you are breathing equally in and out. Ensure the breath is slow and deep. Start your count from 1 to 3 and then slowly build the count up to 1 to 6. Once you are adept at this, you can increase the exhalation to double of inhalation count (1 inahle:2 exhale ratio).
2. Anulom Vilom Pranayama: Alternate nostril breathing. Be seated in any comfortable posture with your spine straight and eyes closed. Fold the index and middle finger of the right hand and then use the thumb for operating the right nostril, and the ring finger and little finger for the left nostril. Place your left hand on your knee. Practice equal breathing (1:1 inhale exhale). Close the right nostril, exhale and inhale from the left nostril, now close the left nostril, exhale and inhale from the right nostril. Continue for a minimum of 10 rounds.
Belly breathing: This is a deep breathing technique that engages your diaphragm, a dome-shaped sheet of muscle at the bottom of your ribcage that is primarily responsible for respiratory function.
How it’s done:
l Put one hand on chest and the other on your stomach.
l Breathe in through nose for about two seconds. You should experience the air moving through your nostrils into your abdomen, making your stomach expand.
l Purse your lips (as if you’re about to drink through a straw), press gently on your stomach, and exhale slowly for about two seconds.
l Repeat these steps several times