– Because it happens automatically, you probably don’t put much thought into your breathing. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought focused attention to respiratory health. Conscious breathing — the yoga practice of pranayama — can help support respiratory health, mental wellness and the body’s physical ability to protect itself.
Pranayama basics and benefits
Pranayama is breath control, and it is a fundamental part of Kundalini Yoga. According to the 3HO Foundation, the average rate of breathing for most people is 16 times per minute. When the rate of breathing increases, or if it becomes rapid and irregular, the mind also becomes disturbed and erratic.
Yoga practitioners believe that your rate of breathing and your state of mind are inseparable. When you learn how to focus your breath, you have more control over your mind, which influences mental well-being by reducing stress and calming negative responses.
Beyond mental wellness, researchers have found that mindful breathing also supports physical wellness. In controlling your breath, you can help strengthen the immune system and support the body’s response to disease. This is particularly important when it comes to respiratory health.
“Yoga – A Remedy to Respiratory Illness” by Dr. Sripriya Krishnan states: “Research studies report that many people with serious respiratory ailments have found a solution in yoga. As the mind is calmed the hyper-reactivity that causes diseases such as bronchial asthma and nasal allergy is reduced. Yoga also strengthens the immune system, so chronic infections are less likely. Finally, if the lungs are permanently damaged, as in chronic bronchitis, yoga teaches how to improve the mechanical efficiency of our breathing and make the most of our lung capacity.”
Start a pranayama practice at home
With heightened awareness of respiratory wellness, many people are exploring the breathing exercises of pranayama at home. Here are two simple Kundalini Yoga breathing techniques you can practice anywhere to improve your respiratory health:
Technique 1: Long deep breathing
Technique 2: Alternate nostril breathing
Sit in a comfortable position either on the floor or in a chair and maintain a straight spine. 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.
Controlled breathing through pranayama can help improve respiratory health, which is even more important during the coronavirus pandemic. To learn more visit kundaliniresearchinstitute.org and 3ho.org.