Do you suffer from a prolonged cough or constant sneezing? Are your eyes itch and burn constantly? Often feel fatigued by the end of the day and don't know why?
Well, the answer is in the air we breathe.
Once considered a source of life, today’s air is increasingly becoming a cause for concern as air pollution reaches alarming levels. And, the onset of the festive season unfortunately brings with it a significant deterioration in the air quality, with AQI reaching alarmingly high levels, air being heavy with particulate matter, and air quality in major cities reaching hazardous levels.
From respiratory issues to developmental concerns, the invisible menace in our air poses a significant risk to our health. While creating a cleaner, healthier environment is a long drawn battle, there are a few easy ways to improve lung health and help you breathe better in these troubling times.
Incorporate these three simple asanas and breathing techniques in your routine, even for as little as 10mins a day and you're sure to feel healthier.
3 Easy to do asanas for improved breathing
1. Ustrasana or Camel Pose: The Camel pose is an energizing backbend that is extremely beneficial for respiratory health. Holding this pose, opens the chest and throat, opening up the lungs and improving lung capacity. Holding the camel pose for a few deep, well intentioned breaths, expands the chest, relaxes the throat and increases the volume of air you’re inhaling. Aim to hold the pose for 10 - 15 breaths at a time.
2. Bhujangasana or Cobra pose: While the cobra pose looks relatively simple, there are a few subtle alignment cues that make this heart opener great for improving your lung health. While practising this pose, aim to straighten out your arms, keep your elbows tucked in by your chest and your lower ribs touching the mat. This intense backbend opens up the lungs, requiring you to breathe purposefully and will leave you feeling invigourated.
Compliment the above asanas with these 3 easy to do pranayams and you’ll be feeling lighter, breathing better and be generally healthier in no time.
The Kapalbhati pranayama helps to regularize our breath, enabling it to be more consciosu, smoother and easier. By controlling the breath we regularize it and activate the lymphatic system, which is known to play a critical role in our immunity. This pranayama clears the respiratory passages and makes our lungs stronger.
How to do KapalBhati Pranayama:
- Sit in a comfortable cross legged position (use a meditation cushion if needed) Sit with your spine erect and hands on your knees with the palms facing the sky.
- Take a deep breath in and as you exhale, pull your naval forcefully towards the spine.
- Consciously contract the abdominal muscles with every inhale.
- As you relax the abdominal muscles, the naval returns to its original position and your lungs fill with air.
- This is one breath. Take 20 such breaths to complete one round of Kapal Bhati.
- After each round, relax your eyes and allow your body to recover.
- Practice more rounds gradually building up to do atleast five rounds of Kapal Bhati at a time.
2. Anulom Vilom or Nadi Shodhan Pranayama:
Nadi shodhan is also known as alternate nostril breathing, and is a calming pranayama. It helps in balancing the flow of air and of energy, which in turn reduces stress, enhances lung performance and improves overall health. By incorporating this breathing technique, you can strengthen your respiratory system, building resistance to ailments caused by air pollution.
How to do Anulom Vilom or Nadi Shodhan Pranayama:
- Sit comfortably with your legs crossed over, spine erect and shoulders relaxed. (you could consider using a meditation cushion or yoga bolster).
- Keep your left hand on your left knee with the palm open to the sky.
- Take your right hand and place the tip of your index finger and middle finger between your eyebrows. The ring finger and little finger of the same hand go on the left nostril, and the thumb is placed on the right nostril.
- The ring finger and little finger are used to open and close the left nostril and thumb is used to open and close the right nostril.
- Now, use your thumb to close the right nostril and exhale gently through the left nostril.
- Then breathe in from the left nostril and close is, by gently pressing with your ring and little finger. Lift up the thumb from the right nostril, so that you can breathe out.
- Continue to inhale from the right nostril and exhale from the left. This is considered to be one round of Anulom Vilom pranayama
- Comtinue breathing in and out alternately from each nostril as you use your fingers to control airflow.
- Focus on exhaling and inhaling from the same nostril before closing it and opening the other one and settle into a nice rhythm.
- Aim to complete 10 such rounds without adding any strain to your body.
3. Bhastrika or Yogic Fire Breathing:
Bhastrika or yogic breath of fire, involves rapid and powerful breathing with forceful and intentional inhalations & exhalations. This pranayama forces carbon dioxide out of our system and increases the oxygen content, clearing your respiratory passages, which helps get rid of any congestion you may have due to particulate matter and pollution.
How to do yogic fire breathing or Bhastrika
- Sit comfortably in sukhasana, with your spine erect and shoulders relaxed. If this is uncomfortable (use meditation cushion or yoga bolster if needed)
- Makes a fist of each hand and fold your arms such that the fist is in line with your shoulders
- Inhale deeply, raise your hands straight up in the air and open your fists to stretch out your fingers.
- Exhale forcefully, simultaneously bringing your arms back down and close your fists to get back to the starting position.
- Repeat this for 20breaths and then relax for a few breaths with your palms on your thighs.
- Repeat this for 2 - 5 rounds and you will instantaneously feel clear of any cough or irritation in your throat.
The above asanas and pranayamas can be easily attempted by anyone, anywhere.
While it is impossible to avoid breathing polluted air, the good news is that your lungs have the ability to heal and renew themselves over time. Practicing these natural methods of cleaning and strengthening your lungs, will not only slow down deterioration, but will also help your lungs recover faster.
Give them a try and you're sure to feel happier & healthier!
Ah, monsoon! The smell of wet mud, grey skies and misty air. The kind of weather that makes you want to stay in bed all day.
As beautiful as the monsoons make everything, they play havoc on our fitness routines. Morning runs are replaced by snoozed alarms, yoga classes are skipped for simmering cups of chai, and gym sessions are traded for binge sessions in bed.
But have you ever wondered why you turn into a sloth the moment the rains set in?
Don’t blame yourself for being lazy, there’s science at play!