International Day of Yoga is observed on June 21, experts share seven exercises to improve lung health. Photo/iStock
Most people use only a part of their lung capacity, thus not providing enough oxygen to the lungs. This partial breathing can be due to bad posture, stress, incorrect breathing or even restrictive clothing. Chronic stress and anxiety also adversely affect lung health. "Yoga emphasises conscious and deep breathing techniques, such as diaphragmatic breathing and alternate nostril breathing. These practices improve lung capacity, enhance oxygen intake and facilitate efficient respiratory function. Through yoga poses and pranayama it is also possible to manage stress and reduce or even alleviate anxiety thus positively impacting lung function," says yoga expert and "JetSynthesys' ThinkRight.me" master Pooja Nidadavolu.
She adds, "Yoga poses, especially those involving chest opening and backbends, help expand the lungs, stretch the intercostal muscles and improve overall lung elasticity. It is advised to breathe mindfully while performing yoga postures, thus allowing your muscles to stretch with ease and go deeper into the pose."
International Day of Yoga is observed on June 21 every year across the globe to spread awareness of the benefits of the ancient mindful practice. We asked two certified yoga experts, Pooja Nidadavolu and Sneha Desai to share exercises and outline their impact on lung health.
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7 stretches for lung health
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Lie on your belly and place your palms beneath your shoulders. On inhalation, lift your chest off the ground and arch the back gently. Place your navel on the mat with bent elbows. This pose strengthens the spine, opens the chest and lungs, increases flexibility, stimulates abdominal organs and relieves stress and fatigue.
Upward-Facing Dog Pose (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana)
Lie on your belly, and press your palms into the ground. Inhale and straighten your arms, lift your chest, pelvic region and gaze upward while opening the front body. This pose stretches the chest and shoulders, strengthens the arms, wrists and back muscles, improves posture, enhances lung capacity, energises the body, relieves fatigue and promotes a sense of openness.
Bridge Pose (Setu Bandhasana)
Lie on your back, bend your knees and bring the heels close to the hips. Inhale deeply and as you exhale, lift your hips off the ground, moving the chest closer to the chin. The bridge pose strengthens the back muscles, glutes and hamstrings. It relieves tension and fatigue in the back. It also stretches your chest, neck and spine, opens the lungs and calms the mind reducing stress and anxiety.
Camel Pose (Ustrasana)
Sit on your knees, inhale deeply and as you exhale arch your back. Move your hands back to grasp your heels, opening the chest and stretching the lungs. This pose can help build a sense of confidence and empowerment, improve posture, and counteract the effects of prolonged sitting. It also strengthens the back muscles. It is recommended for people suffering from asthma and bronchitis.
Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
Lie on your back and get both hands under the body, bringing the elbows as close as possible, palms facing down. Inhale and lift your chest while gazing towards the toes. Exhale and allow the crown of the head to gently rest on the ground, creating a deep arch in the upper back. Remember that the weight of the body should be on the elbows.
This will stretch and tone the front of the neck and abdominals. Practising the fish pose will ease muscle tensions in the neck, throat and shoulders relieving stress and anxiety, and fostering a sense of calm and relaxation. The fish posture also aids in stimulating the thyroid and parathyroid glands, promoting healthy respiratory function.
Bow Pose (Dhanurasana)
Lie on your stomach, bend your knees and grasp your ankles with your hands. Inhale and lift your chest and thighs off the ground, creating a bow shape with your body and hold the pose for a few breaths before gently releasing.
Bow pose stretches the entire front body, opening the chest and shoulders, strengthening the back muscles, improving spinal flexibility, stimulating digestion and reproductive organs, enhancing posture, boosting energy levels and promoting a sense of vitality, confidence and emotional balance.
Wheel Pose (Chakrasana)
Form a supine position, place your hands beside your ears and point your fingers towards your feet. Take a deep breath and exhale. Press into your palms and feet, and lift your entire body, forming a deep backbend.
The wheel posture stretches the entire front body, strengthens the arms, legs, spine and abdomen. Opens the chest, stretches the shoulders, hip flexors and strengthens the glutes and thighs.
All the above poses should be held for 3 to 5 deep breaths. As your strength and flexibility improves you can hold them for longer. It is important to breathe mindfully in each pose, this will not only help you reap the maximum benefit but also can become a meditative practice. Through the practice of yoga postures, we can achieve proper alignment and correct bad posture. They also prevent slouching, rounded shoulders, thus facilitate optimal lung expansion, allowing for better airflow and respiratory efficiency.
5 benefits of regularly practicing breathing and yoga postures
The lungs are responsible for delivering oxygen to the body's cells and removing carbon dioxide, a waste product of cellular metabolism. Oxygen is essential for cellular respiration which provides energy to every cell in the body. Healthy lungs ensure an adequate oxygen supply to all organs, tissues and cells, promoting their optimal functioning.
Healthy lungs enable efficient breathing. They help you take in adequate amount of oxygen with each breath and expel carbon dioxide efficiently. Improved respiratory efficiency enhances physical performance, endurance and stamina during physical activities and exercises.
Maintaining good lung health can help reduce the risk of various respiratory conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia and lung cancer. Healthy lungs are better equipped to defend against infections, filter out harmful particles and remove toxins from the body.
Improved quality of life
Healthy lungs contribute to an improved overall quality of life. They support activities of daily living, such as walking, running and participating in sports or recreational activities, without experiencing shortness of breath or fatigue. Good lung health promotes better sleep, mental clarity and an active lifestyle.
Mental and emotional well-being
Deep breathing exercises, such as those practiced in yoga and meditation can help reduce stress, anxiety and promote relaxation. Deep, mindful breathing techniques have a calming effect on the nervous system, lowering heart rate and reducing anxiety levels. This, in turn, positively impacts lung health by encouraging deeper and more efficient breathing patterns.
Remember to listen to your body and practice yoga poses within your comfort range. If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or concerns, it's always a good idea to consult with a professional before starting a new exercise routine.