Breathing Techniques For Boosting Immunity

Medically reviewed by Vinaya Saunders
Medically reviewed by Vinaya Saunders on April 14, 2020
Registered Prenatal Yoga Teacher
Updated on April 30th, 2020
Exercises for Boosting Immunity

Strong immunity is the result of an ongoing process of lifestyle and routine that we live daily. Breathing and pranayama add life to our lungs. It helps by increasing our lung capacity and immunity.

Our body’s every cell is intelligent in itself. When you offer it nourishment, it tends to grow to keep all functions of the body at its best. When we are in panic and fear, every cell in our body works on protecting us from what we perceive as a threat. Anxiety and stress are the leading cause of immunity collapse in our body.

When we perceive stress, the sympathetic nervous system floods the body with stress hormones. Cortisol is the stress hormone (with flight or fight response) that is not targeted to one area in the body. Hormones can move anywhere in the body, so the effects are felt everywhere. Cortisol stress hormone relocates the resources of the body to outer proximities, stronger legs for running, more blood flow to the brain so you can react for situations that the body perceives as a threat. Constant stress slows down digestive capacity and harms the immune response.

Breathing Exercises For Boosting Immunity

Below are a few breathing techniques that have helped me and my clients build more robust immune systems(1). These four powerful techniques help the body with increased immunity. However, to see maximum results, consistent practice is required. Breathe control can help you dissolve stress and improve wellness.

1. Sukha Kriya

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There are several kriyas with breathing techniques. Sukha kriya is an easy beginner level. I start most of my yoga and pranayama practice with sukha kriya.

  1. Sit comfortably in a cross-legged position or on a chair.
  2. Bring all your attention to your breathing and just observe you are breathing.
  3. Start to focus on the tip of your nostrils.
  4. Inhalation and exhalation are just for a second without allowing inhalation to go above the tip of the nostril.
  5. Immediately exhale.
  6. It is a faster-paced inhale and immediate exhalation.
  7. If you are new, you will feel out of breath in 6-10 seconds, stop, take a big inhale, and restart.
  8. Notice that muscles below the ribs flap in and out, it’s normal. Don’t force it; this is not kapalbhati pranayama.
  9. Gradually build up the practice.

Benefits

  • It reduces blood pressure.
  • It increases self-confidence and cures depression. 
  • It enhances the pain tolerance level and also takes up the stress threshold, making it possible for the practitioners to withstand greater stress.
  • It enhances memory and concentration power and improves learning capacity.

2. Ha- Kriya

Transforms stagnant energy and gets things moving in your body. As the energy moves, it activates, and this builds confidence.

Steps to Ha-Kriya:

  1. Take your thumbs to a point in between your ring finger and pinky finger.
  2. Inhale and lift the hands towards the sky.
  3. On your exhalation, make a fist and bring your elbows closer to ribcage with HA exhalation through your mouth.
  4. Repeat it, ten counts. Stop, get back to natural breathing, and repeat.

Benefits

  • It improves blood circulation.
  • It calms your mind.
  • Keeps away heart-related problems
  • It relaxes the mind and body. 
  • Regular practice of Ha-kriya breathing exercises cleanses, strengthens, and tones your nervous system.
  • Increase self-esteem and inner power to face challenges of life.
  • It improves your concentration.
  • Excellent for glowing skin. 
  • It helps to improve the function of your lungs.
  • Remove blockage of arteries.
  • Relive stress, depression, and hypertension.
  • Helps in Asthma Related issues, headache, migraine, Neurological problems, Heart blockage, depression, gastric problems.

3. Anulom Vilom

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Anulom Vilom pranayama is one of the most exceptional breathing exercises. It is very similar to Nadi shodhana. The mild alternate nostril breathing is Nadi shodhana, while passive in breath and out breath is anuloma viloma. The regular practice offers energy in the body and releases anxiety and stress. It should be practiced in the mornings, inhaling the fresh air with an empty stomach. It energizes the body like a double espresso shot.

Steps to do Anulom-Vilom:

  1. Sit comfortably on flat ground. Those who can’t sit can sit on a chair because this is related to the breath.
  2. When you hold your right thumb to close your nostrils, make sure to keep the elbow and forearm parallel to the ground.
  3. To begin with, close the right nostril with the right thumb and push your inbreath from the left nostril. Close the left nostril using your ring finger and pinky finger and breath out passively from the right nostril.
  4. Now breathe in deeply with the right nostril and then close the right nostril and breathe out deeply with the left nostril. Repeat.
  5. Do this for 5-10 minutes.
  6. Remember that your breathing should be up to the lungs and not in the stomach.

Benefits

  • It improves blood circulation.
  • It calms your mind.
  • Keep away the heart-related problems.
  • It provides relaxation to the body and mind.
  • Regular practice of anulom vilom breathing exercises cleanses, strengthens, and tones your nervous system.
  • It improves your concentration.
  • Excellent for glowing skin.
  • It helps to improve the function of your lungs.
  • Relive stress, depression, and hypertension.
  • Cures asthma, depression, headache, migraine, neurological problems, Heart blockage, and gastric problems.

4. Nadi Shodhana

Nadi shodhana, also called alternate nostril breathing, has a long history in Ayurvedic medicine and yoga. It’s believed to harmonize the two hemispheres of the brain, resulting in a balance in physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

The right nostril is Pingala Nadi(Sun principle or body), and the left nostril represents Ida Nadi (moon principle or mind). In alternate nostril breathing, one inhales through the right and exhales through left then inhales through the left and exhales through the right nostril.

The main aim of this is to purify the Ida and Pingala Nadis. This purification brings balance to mind and body. The metabolic process is balanced. The primary purpose of the Alternate Nostril Breathing is to balance the mental and physical energy.

It is recommended for all types of illnesses. As Hatha Yoga principle Says: health conditions are due to an imbalance between this Ida and Pingala. Alternate nostril breathing balances these two forces.

Steps for Nadi Shodhana:

  1. Catch your right hand upwards and curl your middle and index fingers toward your palm. Put your thumb next to your right nostril and your ring finger and pinky finger next to your left nostril.
  2. Close the right nostril by pressing slowly against it with your thumb, and inhale through your left nostril. The breath should be steady, slow, and full. Here the breath is imagined to go all the way to the base of the spine, unlike Anuloma-viloma, which is more in the chest.
  3. Now close the left nostril by pressing smoothly against it with your pinky and ring finger and open your right nostril by loosening up your thumb and exhale completely with a steady and slow breath.
  4. Pranav Mudra of the right hand will help close the right nostril while inhaling through the left nostril, and the ring finger can close the left nostril while inhaling through right.
  5. Inhale through your right nostril, close it, and then exhale through the left nostril if your breath is noisy and quiet, so your breathing is only felt, not heard.

That’s called one complete round of Nadi Shodhana —

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  1. Inhale through the left
  2. Exhale through the right
  3. Inhale through the right nostril
  4. Exhale through the left

This order is described in the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, 2.7-10

Begin with five to ten rounds and add more as you feel ready. Remember to keep your breathing slow, comfortable, and full.

When to do it:

Just about any time and anywhere. Practice it as a mental warm-up before meditation to help calm the mind and put you in the mood. You can also do it as a part of your centering before beginning a posture or asana routine. Also, practice it at times throughout the day.

Nadi Shodhana helps control stress and anxiety. If you start to feel stressed out, ten or more rounds will help calm you down. It also helps soothe anxiety caused by flying and other fearful or stressful situations.

Benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing (Nadi shodhana)

  1. A sufficient supply of oxygen is ensured, and carbon dioxide is effectively removed.
  2. More oxygen is made available per breathe, making breathing more efficient.
  3. Blood is purified of toxins.
  4. It is very effective for stress management.
  5. It helps to reduce anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses. Also, it reduces hyperactive disorders related to the mind.
  6. Stabilizing Ida and Pingala removes all the blockages in the pranic energy channels, which can lead to spiritual awakening.
  7. It provides all the benefits of deep breathing as well. Cure insomnia when done before sleep.
  8. Learners can start with deep breathing practice in sitting position (Swastikasana- Auspicious, Padmasana – Lotus, Vajrasana – Thunderbolt, Any Cross-legged position in which the body can be relaxed, and spine is erect.)
  9. Initially, four seconds inhale through left and exhale for six seconds through the right nostril, then inhale through right for four seconds and exhale through left for six seconds. This can be practiced for about five minutes. 
  10. Once you advance, you can increase the counts to 4:8, or 5:10 or 6:12 seconds.

Precautions

  • Practice under expert guidance. All kriya are vigorous to some extent, so please consult your medical practitioner before you begin.
  • Pregnant women should not practice Anulom Vilom.
  • Over straining should be avoided.
  • Always practice anulom vilom pranayama on an empty stomach.
  • It should be practiced in the morning or evening or both. If you do not have enough time in the morning or evening, you can practice it at your comfort.
  • Ensure that you practice anulom vilom pranayama at least four to five hours after having your food.

About the Author:

Vinaya Saunders

Vinaya Saunders is experience registered yoga teacher ERYT-500, and ERYT-200 registered prenatal yoga teacher, Rpyt reiki master, Karuna reiki master, SSR integrated energy therapy. Specialty studies: Ayurveda obstetrics, dermatology, and gynecology.

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