by Marian Thornley
Learn how yoga can be used to help overcome sinus problems
Its coming up to that time of year in the PO when those of us who are sensitive to pollen and dust start to suffer. Quite often, when we become sensitive to air-born allergens, our systems go into overdrive and we become even more vulnerable, setting up an unpleasant circle of cause and effect.
What is happening when we get that blocked up feeling? First of all, there are the common colds and viruses, our response to which is an increase in the mucus in the lining of the nose. Then there are the allergens such as pollen, or any other chemicals such as perfumes. If you are sensitive to these then cells within the nasal lining become inflamed, making it difficult to breathe. Our sinuses have tiny openings in them called ostia. When these become blocked, this can lead to a fully fledged sinus infection, and much misery!
How can yoga help? My husband is a big fan of the neti pot. This is a small plastic pot with a long spout. They can be bought from most yoga supply businesses on the internet. Fill the neti pot with warm water and dissolve a half teaspoon of salt in the water. Leaning over a sink and tilting the head to one side, push the spout into the opening of the nasal cavity (carefully!). Let the warm salty water trickle into the nostril and wait to feel it flow through the sinus and exit through the other nostril. Then repeat on the other side. It sounds disgusting but in fact it is an excellent way to stop viruses before they take hold, clean out the sinuses, open up the ostia and generally help to keep the airways free. First thing in the morning is a good time to do this, but it can be done at any time of day.
Another technique is to use sound. Chanting Om, with an emphasis on the “m”, allowing the vibrations to echo around the head, will help to free up the sinuses. Another sound to use is to hum like a bee. This is a breathing technique called Bhramari, and a study by the Karolinska Institute of Sweden has shown this has a significant effect on the sinuses. To do this, take a deep inhalation, then make the humming sound as you exhale. Try to keep the sound coming from as deep in the throat as possible, and feel the vibrations reverberating around the skull. You can spend between two and five minutes practising Bhramari but if you feel lightheaded or short of breath, go back to normal breathing before trying again.
Another student who has had a lot of trouble with her sinuses, has also reported that the yoga postures called Bridge and Dog, are of help. To practice bridge, lie on the floor with knees bent. The shoulders should be relaxed and away from the ears, the arms by the sides. As you inhale gently raise the hips so that you come into a bridge-like shape. Then, exhaling return the hips to the floor. Practice this asana five or six times, and then hug the knees into the chest a few times before ending the practice with the sound techniques above.
With your revitalised sinuses you will then be able to enjoy all the fresh air of the Pyrenees Orientales. Happy breathing!