As we enter the dreaded “cold and flu season” I begin to think about what I can do differently this season to keep me well that maybe I haven’t tried in the past, or at least in a while. So, this year my inspiration comes from breath.
I also read an article that suggested meditation may be more effective than vitamins or flu shots! So, what do we have to lose?!
Breath of Fire (Kapalabhati Pranayama)
This breath can help prevent and treat a cough. It is known to expel toxins from the lungs.
It is quick, rhythmic, and continuous.
Side note, this breath can help you get those six pack abs you’ve been working for 😉
Begin by sitting upright in a comfortable seat. Place your hands(or hand) over your belly to focus your attention there. Forcefully expel all the air from your lungs by squeezing your abdominal muscles. The motion is similar to blowing your nose. Imagine you are kicking out all of the negative yucks each time you exhale. Next, quickly inhale through the nostrils, filling the lungs. Repeat this process for 25 to 30 expulsions. Over time, increase the number of repetitions.
Since I’ve been practicing regularly, this breath has just become a normal thing to do daily. I use it when I’m walking Calvin, I do it in the car when traffic starts getting annoying, sometimes in the shower to just help bring awareness to the now…anywhere! Sometimes this breath is referred to as “ocean breath” due to the ocean wave like sounds it creates. If steam made a noise I would imagine it would sound like this breath too.
Ujjayi helps clear the mind and the sinuses.
It is made by slightly constricting the muscles in the throat to control the flow of air. Inhale slowly through the nose, allowing the stomach to expand. Then, exhale slowly and allow the lungs to empty completely. When getting started it may be helpful to imagine you are fogging up a mirror with your breath. Once you get the idea and a feel for “constricting the muscles in your throat” you can then close your mouth and still produce that same “haaaaaaaa” sound and feeling. Your exhalation should be about twice as long as the inhalation. Repeat for five to 10 minutes.
Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi Shodhan Pranayama)
Guess what!?! This breath is used specifically to treat and prevent colds and seasonal allergy symptoms. It is also aids in calming and centering the mind in addition to releasing built up tension and stress.
Sit in a comfortable position. Empty all the air from the lungs. Traditionally you would use your thumb and your ring finger or pinky of the right hand, but I like using my thumb and pointer finger. Close the left nostril with your pointer finger. Inhale deeply through the right nostril. Pinch both nostrils shut and hold the breath briefly. Release the left nostril and exhale. Reverse the process by inhaling through the left nostril and exhaling through the right. Your hand may get a little snotty depending on how congested you are…but that’s ok! Repeat this cycle for 1 to 3 minutes-ish.
Bees Breath (Bhramari Pranayama)
This breath I found to be hilariously amusing when I first found out about it. It’s just one of those silly yoga things. But did you know you can sound out your sinuses with vibrations from humming!? It’s been shown to open the sinuses and let phlegm drain, which can relieve pressure and may even help stave off a bacterial infection of the sinuses (yoga journal).
Place your pointer fingers at the cartilage by your ears. Begin pressing the cartalige in softly and rhythmically. Inhale normally then press your lips together and hum like a buzzing bee as you exhale. You’ll feel like you’re inside of a honeycomb.
Try a high pitch hum, a medium pitch, and a low pitch just to notice the differences.
High Pitch: May help open the nasal passageways
Medium Pitch: Also helps open nasal passageways, but has also been linked to helping thyroid issues.
Low Pitch: Can help with insomnia. Creates a more soothing effect to the mind and nervous system.
This is a great option if you are too congested for the previously mentioned breaths.
Not feeling like buzzing like a bee? Try chanting “Om” // “Aum”
Side Note: I’ve included Youtube videos to this post to demonstrate each of the breaths, however I do plan to create my own video for each one – so STAY TUNED!!! I know by the first week of January I will absolutely have my Ujjayi breath video (because we will be sharing at yoga teacher training!)
Join me this season by BREATHING TO WELLNESS!!!