Yoga during a Pandemic
Catch up on Part I and Part II.
COVID-19 and our breath capacity
Using our breath forms such an important tool of yoga, and has such widespread benefits that we are going to stay on this topic for a third week!
There are various pranayama (breath-work) techniques that can offer help to resist respiratory ailments, and these are relatively easy to learn, can be done at home or in the office and – except for one which I’ll explain below – need no special equipment.
The first one is called in Sanskrit Kapalabharti. In English it is known as ‘shining skull breath’. For this, we make a series of short, sharp exhales and leave the inhale to come in of its own accord. To start, sit in a comfortable position with the back straight and not leaning against a chair. Focus on your abdomen and start to engage the abdominal muscles with the exhalation. When you have successfully isolated these muscles take an inhale. On the following exhalation pull the abdomen back sharply, to result in a short burst of air leaving the nostrils. Relax and allow the inhale to come in. Repeat about ten times. Take some resting breaths and repeat the whole sequence again.
According to Drs. Monro, Nagarathna and Nagendra, authors of “Yoga for Common Ailments”, this technique serves to “increase the resistance of your respiratory tract’.
A second technique falls into the category of ‘kriya-s’ or cleansing practices and involves the use of something called a ‘neti pot’. I was surprised some years ago when a friend went to our local doctor in Ceret with sinus problems. He emerged with a prescription for a ‘rhino horn’. “That looks like a neti pot,” I exclaimed. And so it was. You fill the pot with lukewarm salted water and run it into one nostril. Positioning yourself above the sink at a certain angle you can make the water run through the sinuses and out of the other nostril. My husband swears by it to cure hay fever. The same doctors referred to above claim that this nasal wash increases the resistance of your sinuses.
A study carried out by researchers at Penn State University, using nearly 300 students, showed that those who used the neti pot daily had significantly fewer colds.
Next week, another breathing technique called ‘alternate nostril breathing’.