BREATH WORK FOR CORONAVIRUS
I began breath work as my entry into yoga. Today, I practice six different breathing techniques daily. As a yoga therapist, I routinely prescribe breath work tailored for my clients’ needs.
Healthy lungs have elasticity, and should be exercised. However, we rarely stretch our lungs as we may stretch our hamstrings. Keep in mind that the diaphragm IS a muscle. Even if you don’t feel it like those hammies, it stills needs a workout.
The following are suggestions to build your lung strength and elasticity in light of Coronavirus. While I stopped all my group classes in March, I’ve offered these pranayama techniques online.
Always inhale and exhale through the nose, unless otherwise guided.
In reality, I try to engage Ujjayi, whenever I do yoga, and especially in bed at night. As part of Covid 19 breath work techniques, I recommend a supine position to provide more space for the diaphragm to descend and retract. Place one palm at the low belly, the other on your heart.
Visualize the torso as an old ceramic decanter. With each inhalation, the vessel fills from the bottom up with water. With each exhalation, the liquid is “poured out,” top to bottom. In other words, deflate the chest, then upper abdomen, and low belly.
This is calming, and expands and contracts the lungs beyond the norm.
Visualize an equilateral triangle. Each of the three components (inhale, retention and exhale) is of equal length or time. While ujjayi is good for everyone, neither retention nor suspension of breath is recommended for those with uncontrolled high blood pressure, glaucoma, or pregnant women.
Dr. Loren Fishman is a physician and yoga therapist with decades of experience. He’s one of the gurus in my self-help book. He suggests this to protect yourself against Covid. He says it helps considerably to generate peace and boost Prana (life energy). It strengthens the diaphragm and the muscles of respiration. Plus, it gives you more control.
“The point is to get control… Breath is sort of voluntary… you can control it. If you don’t, (i.e. when you fall asleep) you breathe anyway. It’s where the voluntary and involuntary nervous systems meet. In a sense, the mind and the body.”
I refer to this as the 25 percent breath. Because you inhale just 25 percent of your lung capacity, four times. First 25 percent: inhale and feel the chest expand a bit. Second 25 percent: repeat, filling the lungs more. Third 25 percent: fill almost to capacity. Fourth 25 percent: expand your breath beyond normal lung capacity. Next, release the breath with one long exhalation.
When I practice it, I feel as if I’m giving my lungs a workout. To Dr. Fishman’s point, this breathing technique requires control. In fact, it’s said to help control the emotions as well. Another reason I recommend it. Again, who can’t benefit from that?
KAPALBHATI, BREATH OF FIRE
Skip this if you have high blood pressure or are pregnant. And since this boosts metabolism and digestion, don’t practice after eating.
If this is new to you, or if you have asthma or COPD, be sure to start this slowly, and take a deep breath whenever you need a rest. When I first began practicing this regularly, 15 years ago, I felt it was tough on my lungs. Now, it’s a cinch.
You can do this in any pose, but I like Ego Eradicator, a more challenging version with arms up in a V. Visuals are on my Yoga Rx page.
CHANTING. MANTRA MEDITATION. KIRTAN.
Finally, don’t forget that singing or chanting is all about breath work. Beyond the joyous sensation that arises when you chant, studies confirm that singing is good for the lungs, especially vital lung capacity. (Also discussed in my book,)
While you can sing or chant by yourself, the benefits are boosted when you’re with others. Even if online.
Deborah Charnes, owner and founder of The Namaste Counsel, is a certified Yoga Therapist. She is the type of Yoga Therapist that is a cross between an Ayurvedic consultant, Acupressurist, Physical Therapist, Psychotherapist, Nutritionist and Myofascial Remodeler. To make it simple, she’s a holistic coach, working with people’s bodies, minds and spirits. She strives to lead her clients to lifestyle changes which will positively impact their physical and emotional wellbeing.
Beyond her traditional certified yoga teacher coursework, she was trained in India in Ayurvedic massage therapy, Ayurvedic nutrition and cooking. Additionally, she holds certification in Yin Therapy, Restorative Yoga Therapy and Yoga Nidra Therapy, Acupressure, Reiki, Yoga for arthritis, Livestrong (for Cancer survivors), Silver Sneakers, Pilates, and more.
Deborah Charnes leads private and group classes. Find her at fitness centers, schools, senior centers, corporations and special events in Texas, Mexico and Central America. In San Antonio/Hill Country, she offers private and semi-private sessions at her clients’ places of business or residence.
For more info about Deborah Charnes and the services she offers, click here.