Have you ever wondered how many breaths we all take in our lifetime? On average we take about 675 million breaths in 80 years of life. Breathing frequency and type are different in different stages of our life depending on age, altitude, pollution levels, smoking, weather and other factors. Our lungs are the main organs of respiration as they are responsible for an exchange of oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) to keep the heart, brain, and other functioning of the body normal. Lung function and lung capacity are determined through the efficiency of exchange of oxygen (O2) and CO2 in our lungs. Any ailments with lungs can affect the health of the entire body. Have you ever thought about keeping your lungs healthy too? We can enhance lung capacity, which means the quantity of air a lung can hold. Certain breathing exercises can help the body make use of all the oxygen inhaled by our lungs in a better way. Here are three simple breathing techniques to strengthen our lung capacity.
Pursed lip breathing
Pursed lip breathing is a simple breathing exercise which helps in slowing down breathing and emptying the Lungs completely.
- Sit in a comfortable position, relax the shoulders, neck, rest the tongue on the floor of the mouth and close your eyes gently
- Inhale through the nose for 2-3 seconds
- Purse your lips as when you blow the candlea
- Breath out all the air slowly for 4-6 seconds
- Repeat this for about 5 minutes
This type of breathing can also be done when someone feels shortness of breath during or after exercise or any heavy work which lets plenty of air in and out of the lungs that helps in restoring the normal breathing pattern.
Diaphragmatic or Belly breathing
How often in a day do we pay attention to our breathing pattern? Do you do shallow breathing or deep breathing? The diaphragm is the main sheet of muscle in between the chest and the abdomen that helps in respiration. But, usually, we develop the habit of breathing through chest, neck and shoulder muscles which limits the amount of air filling in and out of our lungs. Belly breathing strengthens the diaphragm and enhances the pulmonary efficiency. Here is the best way to train yourself for diaphragmatic breathing.
- Lie down on your back on a flat surface with the knees bent or sit comfortably on a chair with neck, shoulder and head relaxed
- Place your one hand lightly on your abdomen and the other hand on the chest
- Inhale deeply through the nose for 2-3 seconds as you fill all the air towards your abdomen
- Pay attention to the hand on the abdomen moving up while making sure hand on the chest is not moving up
- Now exhale all the air through the mouth (Pursed lips) while tightening the abdomen inwards. Make sure the hand on your abdomen is moving down
- Repeat this breathing for 5-10 minutes to get the maximum benefits
Alternate Nostril breathing
This is a type of deep and slow breathing in Yoga in which inhaling, and exhaling happens through alternate nostrils. Long term practice of this breathing improves the total capacity of the lungs while boosting the pulmonary function markers. It is also meant to purify the lungs and the circulatory system throughout the body.
- Sit straight on a flat surface with relaxed shoulders and neck
- Start with deep inhalation and slow exhalation couple of times or for a minute
- While folding the index and middle fingers of the right hand, make Vishnu mudra to close the right nostril with right thumb and left nostril with ring finger
- At first, close the right nostril and slowly exhale through left nostril
- Keep the right nostril closed and slowly inhale through the left nostril and feel all the air going upwards while filling all the air deep down till the abdomen
- Once you inhale all the air possible, pause briefly for 2 seconds
- Now close the left nostril with the ring finger and release thumb to open the right nostril
- Exhale out all the air through the right nostril with a pause of 2 second at the end
- As your still closing the left nostril, inhale slowly through the right nostril letting all the air into right side of the body with a short pause of 2 seconds at the end
- Again, close the right nostril and open the left nostril to exhale all the air out
This is considered as one round of alternate nostril breathing. Continue this pattern for 5-10 minutes to get the maximum benefits.
Practising one or more of these breathing exercises under good guidance is proven to strengthen our lungs. Be sure to do these breathing exercises on an empty stomach as a safety measure. These are short yet very effective ways to strengthen our lungs and boost our immunity as well – a much needed thing for today’s times!
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