The practice of Hatha Yoga refers to a set of physical body movements that use force and resistance to maintain organ, bone, and overall health. This practice also brings synchronicity between the mind, body, and spirit. Every pose performed within this practice has a range of benefits that help one align, feel relaxed and rejuvenated, and promote general wellbeing and strength.
Hatha yoga is also known to improve immunity. As a collective, we are all facing one of the biggest pandemics in the history of humanity and it is imperative to protect not only ourselves but we are now all equally responsible for each other’s safety. So what can we do to prevent ourselves from contracting the coronavirus, as well as spreading it to others?
Of course, wearing masks and social distancing has become the norm; these practices are instrumental in forestalling the spread of the disease but there are a few other things one can do including eating healthy to boost the immune system, maintaining a balanced state of mind to reduce the effects of stress and practicing yoga poses to strengthen the respiratory system. Below are some simple, time-efficient ‘Pranayamas’ or breathing techniques, that you can practice on a daily basis to ensure you breathe easily and avoid succumbing to the flu, common cold, or asthma.
Anuloma Viloma (Nadi Shodhana)
This is a calming breathing exercise also known as alternative nostril breathing. It calms the nervous system and improves the intake of oxygen into the lungs. All Pranayamas are designed to increase lung capacity resulting in more oxygen being carried through the nervous system to the brain as well as other organs.
The practice of Anuloma Viloma involves emptying the lungs and then breathing in through one nostril at a time while keeping the other one closed. The right hand is held in Vishnu Mudra and the thumb is used to first close the right nostril to be able to breathe in through the left. Holding the breath, the left nostril is closed with the ring finger, and exhalation is initiated through the right nostril. Breath is then inhaled through the right after which the nostril is blocked with the thumb and air is exhaled through the left nostril. This completes one set of this Pranayama practice. You can repeat this as many times as you desire but make sure, the process is slow and unhurried.
This practice purifies the blood, calms the mind, reduces stress, increases lung capacity, promotes concentration, and clears the nasal passage.
Kapalbhati (Skull Shining Breath)
This practice is an amazing cleansing technique believed to clear mucus from the air passage, relieve congestion, improve lung health, and even reduce bloating. However, pregnant women, people with high blood pressure, or weak heart health should avoid this practice.
Kapalbhati is done while sitting up straight in either Padmasana or Sukhasana. The spine should be stretched, shoulders tall and relaxed, eyes closed and right hand on the abdomen. This practice consists of forced exhalation, and as with Amuloma Viloma, can even be done using one nostril at a time. First, the practitioner should empty the lungs and then take a deep breath. The sharply exhale pulling the navel in towards the spine. Each exhalation is sharp, short, and quick, but very active, while inhalation is short but passive; inhalation almost becomes a reflex action. Make sure the shoulders and face are relaxed at all times. The navel must be pulled in on exhalation and relaxed on inhalation. You can do 30 rounds of this practice at a time. You can do this practice when you feel congested or bloated, and in the morning or evening.
This practice has a host of unbelievable benefits from relieving hypertension to alleviating asthma, and even reducing problems caused due to sinus. Bhastrika strengthens the lungs, allowing them to breathe in and purify more oxygen which in turn prevents blockages, and improves immunity.
Once again, this practice requires you to sit up tall, stretch the spine and straighten the back with shoulders relaxed. You can sit in padmasana or lotus pose, or sukhasana – cross-legged position. Empty your lungs of all air and then take a deep breath in. Hold the breath for five counts and then release. Now you can begin the practice by inhaling and exhaling with force, kind of like panting like a dog. Do this 21 times, to begin with. One round of inhalation and exhalation is considered one set.