Up until the early age of five, doctors had told my parents not to exercise or excite my younger brother as he has a very delicate respiratory system which made him prone to losing his breath and in search of an inhaler or other device to aid his breathing. Riding bikes, cold air or high winds, allergy season, serious laughing – these were all restricted for my brother. Our lives were all affected by my brother’s disorder: vacations were limited as ski trips and amusement parks were avoided, the house was impeccably clean having been thoroughly cleaned daily, and expensive machines were placed throughout all three levels ensuring quick access should anything happen. Everything advised by the medical professionals were practiced and enforced to the level of perfect. Of course it came to a surprise to both my parents when their five year old son stopped breathing in his sleep. Luckily my mom had decided to check on us kids in the middle of the night – just to make sure windows were closed, sheets had stayed on the bed, and all lights were off. Coming into my brother’s room she found that the machine that was to indicate my brother’s loss of breathing had its emergency light flashing. While that was working properly, the audible alarm had managed to be out of order, alerting no one.
Questions were asked. No real answer came. My parents were told that this was just something we as a family all had to live with. My dad, swore that he would make sure he’d be extra diligent and vowed to double up on the air ventilators in the house. My mom promised read more books and do as much research on the condition. It wasn’t until my grandmother called them all stupid that things started to change. According to my grandma, “In my day kids ran and played. Kids got dirty and were active. This is the reason they were healthier back in my day”.
Taking in my grandma’s words they went to seen an old Indian healer. After a lengthy inspection of my brother, he told them that they had a healthy, underworked and spoiled rotten child! All that was needed for him was exactly as my grandmother had said, and exactly the opposite of all the medical specialist! From that moment, my parents realized that he was right: nothing was getting better since he was a baby! Now, was the time to make a change. My brother was given stretches similar to yoga poses to open up his chest. He was given breathing exercises opening up his lungs. Later he was given the ‘ok’ to start easy exercises, to go out into cold air and fly kites, and join his friends on the playground. From the moment he did his stretches and breathing exercises, he got better. Today, at twenty-seven years of age my brother has cannot say that he has not done his fair share of living.
It turns out that yoga is a great way to help increase and improve breathing ability. Through asanas and pranayamas the lungs can be rejuvenated and improved upon. While they may not have known it, my brother was implementing a special yoga routine of his own.
Yoga regulates the body and mind with something called pranayama. Techniques involving retention of breath help stretch the intercostal muscles even more, and aide in the cleansing and strengthening of the respiratory system. Quickly the points are:
- When inhaling the diaphragm and the external intercostal muscles contract. By taking deeper inhalations the elastic intercostal muscles are able to stretch. During suspension the pressure builds up therefore more oxygen is taken from the lungs leading to more expulsion of carbon dioxide.
One example is Bhastrika Pranayama which also activates the sympathetic nervous system, hyperventilating the lungs which bring more oxygen to the blood leading to a better performance during physical activity. How to do Bhastrika Pranayama:
- Sitting in a comfortable position relax your abdominal muscles
- Breath through your nose with an amplified force during exhalation and inhalation
- In short breath normally through your nose only at a more forceful rate
- Helpful tips include a clear nasal passage, and later move towards deeper inhalations and exhalations