Strengthen lungs against Covid, practise these breathing techniques

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Breath is a bridge between our physical body & the mind. It is more than just an exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in our body. Representative image: AFP
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New Delhi: Life is an amalgam of unpredictability and apprehensions, especially in times like this. While many things remain out of control, your mind is the only powerhouse which can ameliorate you to cope with a multitude of difficult circumstances while facing the unknown.

Through a long and ongoing lockdown in response to Covid-19, one of the biggest concerns for healthcare providers isn't only the spread of the virus, but the growing number of "mental health" problems. Fear and worry of contamination can leave you stressed, anxious and powerless. It can drain you emotionally and trap you in a downward spiral of endless "what-ifs" and worst-case scenarios about what tomorrow may bring.

But! In these pandemic days, procrastinating with mental disorders can heighten the risk of weakening and suppressing the 'immune system' that can cause increased susceptibility to viruses. The covid-19 coronavirus pandemic has turned the world's attention to the immune system. Until a vaccine is available, our immune systems will need to adapt unaided to COVID-19.

Breath is very sacred. It is a bridge between our physical body & the mind. It is more than just an exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide in our body. By consciously breathing for some time during the day one can reprogram our bodies, reduce the effects of stress, improve overall health, and be a powerful intervention for certain illnesses. Because breathing is both voluntarily and involuntarily, it allows us to directly affect the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system. Our breath is normally under subconscious control; when we begin to bring it under our conscious control, we gradually become more aware of other parts of ourselves which have been unconscious.

Kuhoo Gupta, Healer and Founder of The K Junction shares nine unique breathing techniques to know ourselves more deeply:

Kapaalbhati

How to do it: Sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and relax the body. Exhale through both the nostrils with a forceful contraction of abdominal muscles. The inhalation should take place passively by allowing the abdominal muscles to relax.

Benefits: It activates the diaphragm area, which in turn engages the internal organs and glands. It also helps in activating the lymphatic system, which decides the immunity level of the body and increases the resistance of your respiratory tract. It helps in overall detoxification.

Anulom Vilom

How to do it: Sit comfortably. Keep your back straight. Now place your right thumb on your right nostril and inhale deeply from your left nostril. Now close the left nostril with your ring finger and exhale from your right nostril. After the exhalation, inhale from your right nostril.

Benefits: It increases the resistance of your sinuses, balances the left and right hemispheres of the brain and helps in relaxing oneself. It helps to clear both the nostrils as well as idha and pingala naadi.

Bhramari

How to do it: Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes & relax the body. Inhale through the nose. Exhale slowly & in a controlled manner while making a deep steady humming sound like a bee.

Benefits: It relieves stress & cerebral tension and helps in alleviating anger, anxiety & insomnia & increases the healing capacity of the body. It creates a soothing effect on the mind & nervous system.

Sitali

How to do it: Sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and relax the body. Extend the tongue outside the mouth as far as possible without strain. Roll the sides of the tongue up so that it forms a tube. Practice a long, smooth and controlled inhalation through the rolled tongue. After inhalation, draw the tongue in, close the mouth and exhale through the nose. The breath should produce a sucking sound.

Benefits: This cools the body and affects important brain centres associated with biological drives & temperature regulation. It reduces mental and emotional excitation and encourages free flow of prana in the body.It induces muscular relaxation & mental tranquillity.

Ujjaiyi

How to do it: Sit comfortably and close your eyes, relax the body. Imagine the breath is being drawn in & out through the throat and not the nostrils. Gently contract the glottis so that a soft snoring sound is produced in the throat. Inhale and exhale in this fashion.

Benefits: It helps in boosting immunity & lightens up the mood. It is helpful in activating the throat chakra, thereby activating the thymus and thyroid glands. It calms the mind & warms the body. It has a relaxing effect at the psychic level. It slows down the heart rate & is useful in high BP.

Bhastrika

How to do it: Sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and relax the body. Take a deep breath in & breathe out forcefully through the nose. Immediately breathe in with the same force. Forceful inhalation results from fully expanding the abdominal muscles & forceful exhalation from the firm contraction of the abdominal muscles.

Benefits: It helps in oxygenating each and every cell in your body. It rejuvenates and refreshes you and also boosts blood circulation.It burns up toxins and helps balance the doshas (vata, pitta, kapha). It stimulates the metabolic rate and tones the digestive system. It helps to alleviate inflamation in the throat.

Surya bhedan

How to do it: Sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes & relax the body. Watch the breath until it spontaneously becomes slow and deep. Close the left nostril with the ring finger and inhale slowly and deeply through the right nostril. Exhale slowly through the right nostril keeping the left nostril closed with a ring finger.

Benefits: It creates heat in the body and counteracts imbalances of the vata & kapha doshas. It stimulates and awakens the pranic energy and alleviates depression.

Chandra bhedan

How to do it: Simply reverse the instructions in Suryabhedan, inhaling always through your left nostril, exhaling through your right.

Benefits: It quiets the brain and cools the body. It helps in heartburn. Helps in reducing stress and other mental problems.Do not perform suryabhedan and chandrabhedan on the same day. Heart patients should avoid both of these.

Kumbhak (holding breath in between inhalation and exhalation)

According to study, holding your breath can not only change the genetic activity of white blood cells (immune cells), but it also appears to significantly increase white blood cells to help fight illness. You can practice kumbhak while doing deep breathing or anulom vilom and many other kinds of pranayam. But deep breathing would be the easiest for the beginners. Kumbhaka should be practiced only when one is experienced to some extent in normal pranayama. And ideally kumbhaka should be done under the guidance of an expert. Heart patients should avoid kumbhak.

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