Six breathing exercises to strengthen your lungs
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Six breathing exercises to strengthen your lungs

As India continue to gasp for breath, it is important to strengthen our lungs more than ever

Six breathing exercises to strengthen your lungs

As Covid-19 cases continue to surge, we need to be even more cautious, while staying at home and keeping ourselves healthy and fit. Although eating well and exercising keep our bodies and minds in good shape, it is also important to improve the respiratory system, which are also heavily impacted by the virus.

While India continues to gasp for breath due to an extreme shortage of oxygen supply, it has become important to strengthen our lungs more than ever. Breathing exercises keep your lungs healthy as they improve lung muscles, clear out any secretion and increase the lung capacity by supplying an adequate amount of oxygen. These exercises help one stay calmer, and de-stress, especially in these tough times we are living in.

Dr. Harish Rawat, founder of LOL-Yoga (Lot of Laughter Yoga) and record holder at Guinness Book of World Records suggested these six breathing exercises one must start practicing regularly:

1. Diaphragmatic breathing

Also known as abdominal breathing, or belly breathing, this breathing exercise has many benefits such as managing depression, irritable bowel syndrome, insomnia and anxiety. Normally people get in the habit of breathing without fully utilising the lower part of their lungs. With this breathing technique, you consciously practise filling in lungs to their maximum capacity and increasing oxygen uptake.

How to do it:
• Lie flat on the floor or sit in a comfortable position and relax your shoulders
• Put one hand below your chest and just above your stomach (this is where your diaphragm sits)
• Take a deep breath in by expanding your diaphragm or stomach and exhale slowly

2. Deep breathing with increasing counts: breathe-in and breathe-out

This is one of the easiest and most important exercises. Deep breathing strengthens lungs. This exercise facilitates blood flow, increases immunity and is known to eliminate anxiety and stress.

How to do it:
• Sit down in a relaxed position, take a deep breath and count your inhalation and exhalation. Ideally, your inhalation and exhalation counts should be the same.
• With each breath, increase the count to inhale and exhale for as long as comfortable.
• Practise 2 to 5 minutes of duration.

3. Anulom-vilom

It is a prevalent Pranayama and has been spoken about in the Hatha Yoga literature, more commonly known as alternate nostril breathing. This breathing exercise helps clear out the nasal passage and improves respiratory muscle strength.

It is advised that Anulom-vilom should be practiced on an empty stomach, ideally in the morning or in the evening after a long meal gap.

How to do it:
• Sit on a chair or on the ground cross legged, in a meditation position.
• With your right thumb, close your right nostril and inhale through the left nostril. Release your right nostril and with your middle and ring finger, close your left nostril exhaling through the right nostril.
• Inhale through the right nostril, then release the fingers, closing the right nostril and exhaling through the left nostril.
• Continue the slow breathing through alternate nostrils and focus on the breath.
• Practise this for 10 minutes for benefits to start accruing.

4. Pursed-lips breathing

Pursed-lips breathing can slow down your breathing, reducing your body's work by keeping your airways open longer. This makes it easier for lungs to function and improves the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide.

This breathing exercise is often easier for beginners than diaphragmatic breathing, and you can do it at home even if no one has showed you how. It can be practiced any time.

How to do it:
• Inhale slowly through your nostrils.
• Purse your lips, as if pouting or about to blow on something.
• Breathe out as slowly as possible through pursed lips. This should take at least twice as long as it did to breathe in.
• Repeat.

5. Bhramari

Derived from Sanskrit, brahmari literally means a bee. It is a humming exercise, which increases nitric oxide in the body and acts as vasodilators; helps with easier blood flow through the vessels and prevents muscles from tightening.

How to do it:
• Sit on a chair or on the ground cross legged in a meditation position.
• Close your ears using your thumb and place your middle and ring fingers lightly at the inner corner of your eyes. Rest your index finger above your eyebrows and little finger where it rests on your cheeks.
• Take a deep breath in and while exhaling make a soft humming sound similar to ‘hmmmmm’, throughout the entire exhalation. Inhale again and while exhaling make the humming sound.
• Practise for 10 minutes for benefits to start accruing.

6. Cardiovascular exercise

The benefit of any cardiovascular exercises is that it increases your heart rate which forces the respiratory system to become more efficient and eventually increases the amount of oxygen you take with each breath. This allows for your lungs to improve capacity and function better. Here are some of the most common cardiovascular exercises that you can do from the comfort of your home: brisk walking, spot jogging, jumping rope, jumping jacks and climbing stairs.

Dr. Harish, who is also the author of 'Laughter Therapy For Depression', said that performing laughing exercises helps an individual deal with stress, depression and anxiety. 

All these exercises can be done at home itself. One can prefer a roof top to experience the bliss of fresh air. These exercises won’t help prevent Covid-19, however, if performed daily, they will help in developing a stronger respiratory system which can help our body to fight any possible infection. Having said that, if you or your family members have any pre-existing health conditions or are feeling any discomfort, please do consult with your doctor. Moreover, these exercises are not recommended for a Covid-19 patient.