Yogic Breathing for Respiratory Health

We breathe automatically, without the need for much thought, but COVID-19 has focused our attention on our respiratory health. The yogic practice of conscious breathing “pranayama” can help support our respiratory health, mental wellness and the body’s response to disease.

As an experienced Yoga Practitioner, I know how inseparable our rate of breathing and our state of mind is. Through learning how to focus and control our breath, we can gain more control over our mind. This influences our mental well-being, calming the mind’s negative responses and reducing stress.

Beyond mental wellness, researchers have found that mindful breathing also supports physical wellness. It can help to strengthen the immune system which is particularly important when it comes to respiratory health.

Many people with respiratory ailments have found a solution in yoga. As the mind is calmed, the hyper-reactivity that can trigger breathing difficulties is reduced. If the lungs are permanently damaged, yoga teaches us how to improve the mechanical efficiency of our breathing and make the most of our lung capacity.

Here are two simple Kundalini Yoga breathing techniques you can practice anywhere to improve your respiratory health:

TECHNIQUE 1 – LONG DEEP BREATHING THROUGH YOUR NOSE

Long deep breathing uses our full lung capacity of by consciously using the three parts of the lungs: 1. abdominal or lower, 2. chest or middle, 3. clavicular or upper.

  • Sit in a comfortable position either on the floor or in a chair and maintain a straight spine.
  • Begin your inhale from the abdomen which moves down and out. Then add the chest breath moving your ribs out to the sides and finish with raising your chest to reach the upper part of your lungs. All three parts are done in a smooth motion.
  • Start the exhale by relaxing the chest down and slowly emptying your chest. Finally, pull the abdomen back towards your spine to force out any remaining air.
  • Breathe through your nose, and focus on gradually slowing your breath.
  • Continue for 26 breaths, or 3-31 minutes.

TECHNIQUE 2 – ALTERNATE NOSTRIL BREATHING

Using the thumb and index fingers of the right hand, make a “U” and use the thumb to close off the right nostril and the index finger to close off the left nostril.

  • Sit in a comfortable position either on the floor or in a chair and maintain a straight spine.
  • Close your left nostril, inhale deeply through your right nostril. At the end of the inhale, close your right nostril and exhale fully through your left nostril.
  • Now inhale through your left nostril fully, then close your left nostril and exhale fully through your right one.
  • Continue this pattern of alternate nostril breathing smoothly without pausing at the end of the inhale or exhale.
  • Continue for 3-5 minutes.
  • Keep your shoulders and body relaxed and your spine straight throughout.
  • To end, inhale deeply, hold your breath a few seconds, lower your hand, exhale and relax.

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