Lung health is not only crucial for smokers and people with existing respiratory problems. Our lungs provide vital oxygen to all our body’s organs and, of course, allow us to breathe. If you’ve been practicing yoga for a while, you may know just how essential the breath is in yoga practice and everyday life.
While the primary purpose of breathing is to send oxygen to the cells in our body and release carbon dioxide, our breath helps us in many other ways. For example, effective breathing results in better digestion, increased immunity, more mental clarity, improved sleep, reduced stress levels, and much more.
The healthier our lungs are, the more effective our breathing is; thus, the more mental and physical health benefits we will experience. As yoga emphasizes breath connection, it’s no surprise that this spiritual and wellness practice is good for the respiratory system. So let’s explore how yoga asana and pranayama techniques help lung health.
How Does Yoga Affect The Respiratory System?
Meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga postures can all have a positive effect on the respiratory system.
Yoga asanas that stretch the chest area expand the lungs and diaphragm. This creates a clearer passageway for air to enter the lungs and relieves breathing difficulties like Asthma. They can also help to strengthen the lung muscles and increase blood circulation.
Yogic pranayama techniques help unblock the nostrils, clean capillaries and clear the nasal passage, which can relieve coughs, colds, Asthma, and chronic bronchitis. Moreover, diaphragmatic breathing (slow, deep breathing that engages the diaphragm) strengthens the lungs and increases their capacity for taking in oxygen.
Finally, the respiratory rate slows during meditation and chanting, allowing the lungs to absorb more oxygen. Both meditation and breathing exercises also strengthen the diaphragm.
Best Pranayamas For Lung Health
Also known as Alternate Nostril Breathing, Nadi Shodhana involves breathing through one nostril at a time. You use a specific mudra to block off one nostril while you inhale or exhale through the other. A round of Nadi Shodhana looks like this; inhale through the right nostril, exhale through the left, inhale through the left, and exhale through the right. It is done to a fixed breathing ratio and can also include breath retention.
Nadi Shodhana unblocks the nostrils, which is particularly helpful if you feel congested. In addition, it infuses the lungs with fresh oxygen, which clears and balances the entire respiratory system.
While Nadi Shodhana is calming, Kapalabhati is energizing. It involves natural inhales and short, forceful exhales where you contract the abdominal muscles. The powerful technique detoxifies your body, including the lungs and respiratory tract. It also boosts the supply of oxygen, purifies blood, and cleanses the capillaries and nasal passages, relieving respiratory problems.
Bhramari is commonly known as the Humming Bee Breath, requiring you to make a humming sound as you exhale. The technique involves placing your index finger on your ear cartilage. First, you take a deep inhale, then as you exhale, you make a high-pitched humming sound while gently pressing the cartilage.
This pranayama is incredibly cleansing for the throat and helps to reduce coughs and nasal passage infections. Research has also found that Bhramari pranayama improves pulmonary function (general functioning of the lungs).
Did you know we have a video course dedicated to pranayama techniques? In the PlayPauseBreathe course, we explain and demonstrate the seven most effective pranayama exercises for lung health, along with powerful yogic cleansing techniques.
Best Yoga Poses For Healthy Lungs
Cobra Pose (Bhujangasana)
Cobra Pose is a popular and gentle backbend that stretches and strengthens the entire chest and stimulates the lungs to improve blood circulation. The chest region opening that this pose creates increases lung capacity and can be therapeutic for people with asthma.
To practice Cobra Pose:
- Start in a prone position with your feet hip distance apart and hands beside your ribs.
- Gently press into your palms to lift your upper body off the mat while pressing the back of your toes to activate your quads.
- Keep your hips on the ground and elbows bent, then roll your shoulders back and down to open and stretch the chest.
Fish Pose (Matsyasana)
Fish Pose opens the throat and chest, stimulating the heart, lungs, thymus, and lymph glands. The deep heart and throat opener encourages deep breathing, which increases lung capacity, boosts the immune system, and provides relief from respiratory disorders. In addition, Fish Pose improves circulation and distribution of blood throughout the body.
To practice Fish Pose:
- Start in a reclined position.
- Bring your hands under your buttocks and press your forearms into the mat as you lift your chest upwards.
- Drop your head back to open the throat and arch the spine, keeping the weight on your elbows and forearms.
Seated Twist (Ardha Matsyendrasana)
Aside from backbends, twists like Ardha Matsyendrasana also open the chest and stimulate the lungs. This easy yet powerful seated posture brings a deep twist into the upper side of the body, inducing deep breathing and, thus, strengthening the muscles of the lungs. The twisting motion also promotes better circulation of oxygen in the lung cavity and can provide relief from breathing difficulties.
- Start in Dandasana with the legs straight.
- Bend the right knee, place the foot to the outside of the left thigh and bring your right hand behind your lower back.
- As you inhale, reach your left arm up; as you exhale, twist your torso to the right side.
- Bend the elbow and try to hook it to the outside of the knee. From here, gently press the elbow into the knee to deepen the twist and open the chest more, increasing the respiratory benefits.
We know that remembering the unique benefits of every asana is not easy. That’s why we added a benefits indicator on our revolutionary PlayPauseBe yoga deck. The deck features 82 illustrated asana cards, and on the back of each, there are 10 benefit icons, including lung health. Each posture’s benefits are highlighted, so creating a sequence for the lungs is super simple.
Final Thoughts On Yoga For Healthy Lungs
Healthy lungs prevent us from getting sick, allow us to breathe easily, and ensure all body organs function well. Yoga postures, breathing techniques, and meditation help keep the respiratory system in tip-top condition. So if you don’t already have a regular at-home yoga practice, why not start today? The PlayPauseBe yoga deck enables you to create fun and therapeutic sequences no matter your level!