Healthy DIY, Lifestyle

The Magic in Morning Breathing Exercises

the-magic-in-morning-breathing-exercises

Breath or prana is our primary life force, without which life would simply cease to exist. However, we often take it for granted. Morning Breathing Exercises (MBEs) are a practice and technique that involve breathing exercises in the morning before you begin your day. Why do we prefer morning? Because, it is a particular time that is special to the body. When we wake up in the morning, not only do we have toxins accumulated in our system from the detoxification process that took place during the night, but we also wake up with slightly elevated cortisol levels, which is a natural part of our biological clock.

 

For the longest time, Yoga and Ayurveda have taught us the importance of engaging in pranayama during early hours of the day, and today we have scientific studies and research telling us the same.

 

Morning Breathing Exercises are a powerful way to boost our lung health and our body’s ability to use oxygen the right way, which is essential for human life. It is possible that we could have many lung-related issues or existing issues may worsen, if our lungs are not breathing the right way.

 

Importance of MBE’s:

  1. Better oxygenation and respiratory support:

Our body is made up of trillions of cells that need the right amount of oxygen during the right period of time to function the right way. Insufficient intake of oxygen and retaining carbon dioxide in our system for too long (for whatever reason it might be, say, a lung disorder or simply not breathing the right way) can work like poison and make us feel tired, drowsy, light-headed, dizzy and so on. It can also compromise the normal functioning of all our organs, because of their dependency on oxygen. We can live without water and food for a few days, but not without oxygen for even for 3 – 4 minutes. It is our life force and that is why we need to respect our lungs and train it to work the right way, especially if its function is compromised due to a respiratory disorder.

 

  1. Trains our lungs to work the right way:

Our lungs work for us all the time – while we sleep, are awake, work, and workout and so on. However, what we fail to use, we lose. Morning Breathing Exercise helps train our lungs to use oxygen the right way. Sometimes during the day, we may find ourselves gasping for a deep breath or taking deep sighs, which are not healthy signs. This means that we are breathing wrong, and either our cells are deprived of oxygen, or we are retaining carbon dioxide in our system for too long.

 

  1. Useful in case of respiratory diseases like Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Emphysema, Lung Cancers, Asthma, and Bronchitis:

Morning Breathing Exercises are techniques that will train your lungs to get stronger as well as loosen up mucous and any phlegm you may have. In case of a lung condition (COPD, emphysema or lung cancers), where the lungs are already taxed, we need to take any additional burden off from the lungs, so that it can do its job effectively and MBE helps us with that. MBE’s are also a huge de-stressor and can help revive any lost functions of the lungs.

 

  1. Improves Lung Capacity:

Lung capacity can vary from person to person. Some may be able to do a complete inhalation in 8 secs, while some may do it in 9 – 10 seconds. And, while this is not a competition, it does reflect on the strength of your lungs. Just like a single pump from our heart should be able to send blood to trillions of cells in our body, a single inhalation should be able to send oxygen to all the cells in our body and carry out a successful respiratory exchange between carbon dioxide and oxygen.

 

Best Time to Practice MBE?

MBE needs to be done in the morning, along with some physical activity. Even a 10 minute casual (not brisk) walk in your home or living area before you settle down for breathing exercises works the best.

 

What should be the Duration?

Even 5 minutes of this practice is powerful for your lungs and will bring in great results. For those who have lung cancers (even metastatic), MBE is a scientifically studied and proven technique that can help improve your longevity and prevent the possible spread by 50 – 60%, which is huge! (This is not to say that MBEs are going to take away your disease, but it is going to make your life better.)

 

If practised regularly with a conscious effort of dedicating 5 – 10 minutes to it, you will train your lungs to work efficiently and then, breathing this way will become an automatic phenomenon. Additionally, each of these breathing exercises maintains homeostasis in your body, i.e. the natural state of equilibrium. When our body is in optimum homeostasis mode, everything works efficiently.

 

Morning Breathing Exercises (MBEs):

The 6 breathing exercises are as follows. You can include all 6 in your practice or start with the first two, develop lung strength and capacity, and then accordingly take up the next two.

  1. Diaphragmatic breathing (natural way of breathing): 3 – 4 rounds
  • Sit with your back straight, chin parallel to the ground, and shoulders rolled slightly backwards.
  • Place one hand on your belly and the other on your chest.
  • Close your eyes.
  • Breathe in through your nose. With every inhalation, inflate your belly like a balloon. Allow your belly to rise. As you exhale, allow your belly to fall back and deflate.
  • Repeat this for 3 – 4 rounds or more. If done the right way, this is very powerful.

 

  1. Hu-breathing (great in case of hyperventilation, where one exhales more than inhaling): 3 – 4 rounds
  • Sit with your back straight, chin parallel to the ground, and shoulders rolled slightly backwards.
  • Inhale through your open mouth (form your lips as if you are saying “hu” or “who”).
  • Close your mouth.
  • Gently exhale through your nose. The sound will be like that of the ocean. You will feel calm yet energized after this breathing.

 

  1. Pursed lip breathing (great for removing trapped air in the alveoli sacs, which can make us hyperventilate): 3 – 4 rounds
  • Sit with your back straight, chin parallel to the ground, and shoulders rolled slightly backwards.
  • Inhale through your nostrils (any length) and then, purse your lips together as if you are blowing out a candle.
  • Gently exhale through your mouth with pursed lips. Do not blow out. Exhale gently. This again sounds like the sound of the ocean. This technique is great to reduce shortness of breath.

 

  1. Simple breathing through your nose with the holding of your breath: 3 rounds
  • Sit with your back straight, either in crossed legged or vajrasana, and slightly roll your shoulder back. You can also take back support. If you are on a wheelchair with a slight hunch, you can simply place a pillow behind your back for support. The idea is to keep your entire chest region open and allow the ribs to expand to be able to take in more air.
  • Gently close your eyes.
  • Inhale for 3 seconds.
  • Hold for 3 seconds.
  • Exhale slowly for 3-4-5-6 seconds.

Here, plan your hold as per your comfort level, but make sure your exhalation is longer and slower than your inhalation. Do not push the air out. Exhalation should be nice and slow, whenever you feel the need to release carbon dioxide. If you are not able to hold, that is fine. Simply inhale and exhale, and as your lungs get stronger, you will be able to hold your breath too. Build this up gradually. It is not a competition!

 

Usually, an exhalation should be double than that of the inhalation. So, if you inhale for 3 seconds, the exhalation should be 6 seconds. For a beginner, even a ratio of 3:3 is fine.

  1. Box breathing (great for chest tightness, wheezing, mucous accumulation and shortness of breath): 6 – 8 cycles
  • Sit with your back straight, chin parallel to the ground, and shoulders rolled slightly backwards.
  • Inhale through your nostril for 3 seconds.
  • Hold for 3 seconds.
  • Exhale through your nostrils for 3 seconds.
  • Hold for 3 seconds (it is the space between exhalation and next inhalation).
  • If you cannot hold for 3 seconds, do it for 2 seconds. The space between exhalation and the next inhalation is very powerful, because it helps increase the capacity of your lungs and haemoglobin to hold onto oxygen. It enables your body to hold on to enough oxygen, even if your breathing pattern has shortened for a bit, in times of stress, for example. This is an all-round breathing exercise for the lungs.

 

*Make sure your seconds are uniform in box breathing. (3:3:3:3 or 1:1:1:1)

 

  1. Huff method (great for getting rid of congestion, mucous build-up and if you are breathing in polluted air): 3 rounds
  • Sit with your back straight, chin parallel to the ground, and shoulders rolled slightly backwards.
  • Take a long inhalation through your nose.
  • Exhale through your mouth, 3 times with a “ha” sound (ha, ha, ha). Release all the carbon dioxide out of your lungs, before you begin the next inhalation. If you have weak lungs, do not jerk. Or, just exhale through your mouth with one “ha” sound. You may cough while you do this. That is a good sign, because that indicates you are loosening up the mucous effectively.
  • After this, settle down and rest.
  • It is best, if followed up with a mug of lukewarm water, or add a few drops of tulsi ark or holy basil water.
  • For those with a lot of mucous, you can follow it up with steam inhalation.

 

 

Important Points to remember for MBEs:

  1. Practice, Practice, Practice these exercises. It will hardly take 5 minutes of your time. You can practice all 6 breathing exercises, or select a few and practice them.
  2. Take a 10 minute walk before settling down for the exercises. It is always good to mobilise your body first before practising them. This is how traditional yoga is designed (Asanas first, then pranayama, and then on to meditation).
  3. MBE is a great way to improve the health of your lungs, for the sake of prevention, maintenance and recovery. It is great for cases of COPD, lung tumours, emphysema, and even if you are living in a polluted environment. These are even helpful for congested lungs, mucous build-up and blocked sinuses.
  4. Do not force yourself, if it makes you feel uncomfortable. Any exercise will exert you, so please listen to your body and train it gradually.
  5. All breathing exercises are best done with a straight back, closed eyes and shoulders rolled back to give your lungs enough space to expand.
  6. Count your breaths for easy coordination.
  7. All exercises are according to the diaphragmatic breathing technique.
  8. Practice this regularly for the next one month, post a 10 minute walk. Remember, it will just take you 15 minutes.
  9. If you are a senior citizen, or have a history of coughing or lung problems, please get yourself checked. There are so many people who live with these symptoms, but on getting tested, they identify pneumonia or some bacterial infections. If detected at the right time, there is a lot that can be done.
  10. Individuals, who have pigeons visit their windows, please have a net installed, as pigeon droppings and their feathers can also cause a lot of respiratory issues.

 

Also, watch the following three videos for a better understanding:

 

Caution: If you have weak lungs, it may tire you out. Please listen to your body, and if it feels a bit too much, discontinue or pace it accordingly. You may want to first practice all the other breathing exercises to strengthen your lungs and then, start practising this. Please make an informed decision.

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Luke Coutinho

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