Breathing and the way we do it can become our powerful allies against asthma, but also colds, respiratory tract infections, anxiety and insomnia. Let's see how small tricks or simple exercises that you can practice even every day for a few minutes can help improve well-being and quality of life. Sometimes solutions and remedies are something we really have… under our noses!
Breathing through the nose against viral infections
Between the mouth and nose, it is best to breathe through the nose. The nasal cavity in fact acts as a filter for incoming air and humidifies it, avoiding dryness of the mucous membranes. Not only that, the paranasal sinuses produce nitric oxide, a substance that then reaches the bronchi and lungs with a bronchodilator and vasodilator effect. But nitric oxide also protects the airways with an antiviral action, inactivating viruses and hindering their replication.
Therefore, when you breathe from the mouth, this important filter is bypassed and the consequences can be an alteration of the antiviral response if you come into contact with a virus. In fact, it has been observed that the use of small devices during sleep to encourage breathing through the nose, such as nasal patches, has made it possible to prevent colds (Martel et al, Microbes Infect, 2020). So breathing through the nose activates our natural defenses against viruses that can attack the respiratory tract, including the new coronavirus. Certainly this measure is not enough to counter the COVID-19 infection, it is also necessary to resort to protective measures such as mask, hygiene and distancing, but this is added to all the prevention measures that we can put in place to ensure health and well-being of the respiratory tract. So, let's face it, are we breathing through the mouth? Let's try to change what may have become a habit, sometimes also caused by anxiety. And if the nose is closed, we can try to decongest it by preparing inhalations to which you can add a few drops of balsamic essential oils, such as fir or eucalyptus.
Diaphragmatic breathing against anxiety and insomnia
In a calm environment, such as in bed before falling asleep or in a quiet corner of the house when anxiety grips us, it is possible to try a very effective breathing technique based on diaphragmatic breathing. Slow down your breathing, put one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. The hand on the chest should not move because the chest isn't involved in the breathing. When you inhale, on the contrary, you should feel your belly swell, while with the exhale, your belly deflates. Diaphragmatic breathing has been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, stress and insomnia (Liu et al, Sleep Med, 2021 - Chen et al, Perspect Psychiatr Care, 2017).
Breathing techniques against asthma
Asthma is generally kept under control with drugs but this does not always solve the problem and continuous nocturnal awakenings, anxiety and irritability may occur. Yoga pranayamas, which are breathing techniques, can help improve lung function. One study has just observed that performing pranayama sessions for twenty minutes twice a day for three months can help improve breathing in asthma (Saxena et al, Int J Yoga, 2009). In particular, here are the pranayama exercises you can practice. Sit down with your legs crossed, with both nostrils start to inhale deeply and then exhale, always slowly, this is the simplest exercise with which to open the sessions.
Then, you can move on to practice another exercise given by Sasankasana breathing. You are on your knees, your left hand grabs your right wrist behind your back. Inhale and bend your back slightly backwards, your head looks up, exhale and bend forward until you touch the mat with your forehead, go on for a few cycles.
Then, you can try alternate nostril breathing. Sit cross-legged, the thumb of the right hand plugs the right nostril, inhale deeply, detach the thumb and now plug the left nostril with the index finger of the right hand, exhale slowly. Always inhale from the right nostril, then detach the index finger and press the right nostril with your thumb, continue like this. These exercises are meant to normalize breathing. Instead, the next exercise is designed precisely to alleviate the difficulty encountered during exhalation in the case of asthma. Sit down in a cross-legged pose, inhale deeply, then, with the exhale, pronounce the mantra OM prolonging it until it is no longer possible to continue.