By Kiran Rampuri
What if you could find a secret that could build your immune system and control your health forever, and help you get over the fear that everyone has these days of getting a cold, flu, or viral infection? You don’t have to go too far to find it as this secret is already within you: it is your breath. Yes, it is that simple. You can control your health by using only your breath. We all know that by building up our immune system, we can lower our chance of catching a virus. But did you know that if your breathing is not proper, it can negatively affect your whole body? Some people suffer from nervous breakdowns and poor memory due to incorrect breathing as well. Our brain can only get a proper supply of oxygen through proper breathing, which can help with many other health issues. Most of the time we breathe shallowly and fast, which is the wrong way to breathe.
We do not utilize the full capacity of our lungs. Improper breathing allows a part of our lungs to remain inactive which leads to future health problems because our body is not receiving its full supply of oxygen. Our lung function decreases as we age, just like other parts of our body. Correct breathing is an excellent way to increase lung function and strengthen our respiratory system by utilizing it efficiently, so it stays healthy longer. When we are stressed or anxious, our brain releases cortisol, a stress hormone. Correct breathing increases endorphins and dopamine, the “feel-good” hormone which helps lower stress levels. This added benefit keeps our stress levels low and immune system strong. The quantity of oxygen we receive also affects our posture. The shoulders and neck must be relaxed and the spine straight. This position will open the lungs and rib cage fully so oxygen can reach every corner. Just a few minutes of slow, deep breathing with awareness is more beneficial than a full day of shallow breathing. We will influence our unconscious breath during this short practice of deep breathing. Over the time even if we forget about it, our body continues with a deeper and slower breathing rate than usual for a variable time. Each slow and deep breath rejuvenates us. Here is how the breath can help to build our immunity and health:
Breathe slowly through the nose only:
Shallow and quick breathing is the best way to catch a cold. Our nostrils play the role of radiators for the incoming air. As air is inhaled slowly through the nose, it is filtered and warmed through the respiratory tract. This air then goes into the respiratory system at the right temperature. This warm air is more effective for delivering oxygen to be utilized by the body. The air coming from the depth of our respiratory system warms up the nostrils in reverse. If inhalation is too fast and vigorous, the breath will not have enough time to be warmed, therefore, it will be cold and less effective for the body to utilize at the cellular level.
Diaphragm breathing, also known as the belly or abdominal breathing:
Diaphragm breathing uses the lower portion of the lungs. Movement of the diaphragm allows the lungs to expand, even more, allowing more space in the chest cavity. When we think we are breathing deeply, we use our shoulders and neck muscles to take the breath from the top part of our lungs to the bottom, which is called vertical breathing. Breathe horizontally instead, just within your abdomen. As you inhale, feel your belly expanding outward from the sides as if you are trying to touch your arms with the sides of your stomach. You can try this breathing while sitting, lying down, or standing. Diaphragm breathing is beneficial for strengthening our immune system which helps keep the body prepared for resistance against germs.
Be mindful of your breath:
Breathe as slowly as you can, feel the coolness of the air being inhaled, and the warmth of the air being exhaled in your nostrils. Exhale slightly longer to expel extra carbon dioxide. You can also do a short pause after every inhale and exhale. This is called Kumbhaka (retention of breath) in Yoga. This is very beneficial for those who suffer from anxiety, stress, poor memory, or incorrect breathing habits. Be mindful of your breath, and do not let your breath become shallow. Practicing these breathing techniques regularly will create a habit for our brain. This will slowly become a permanent way of breathing, which is more ideal. Slow down, breathe, and be aware of your breath.
About the author:
Kiran Rampuri is a Certified Yoga Therapist and Registered Yoga Teacher. She has over 11 years of experience in teaching yoga. She has helped many people overcome their health issues through regular yoga practice. Her belief is that no one should suffer with diseases as these are just imbalance within the body which can be brought back into balance through yoga and self-awareness at an early stage.
-“Breathe” Dr. Belisa Vranich (clinical Psychologist)
-“The Breath Effect” by Emma Ferris (Physiotherapist & breathing coach)
-“Why slow down the breath” by Andre Van Lysebeth, (magazine of the Bihar school of Yoga)