The lungs are a pair of spongy organs in the chest, which are primarily responsible for the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the air we breathe and the blood. The whole reparatory system looks like a tree inverted with the root on the top and the branches in the bottom.
The trachea or the windpipe conducts inhaled air into the lungs through its tubular branches, called bronchi. The bronchi then divide into smaller and smaller branches called bronchioles, which becomes smaller and microscopic.
The bronchioles further end in clusters of microscopic balloon like air sacs called alveoli, which are connected to the larger tubes of the lungs by the tiny tubes known as alveolar ducts and bronchioles. The alveoli are so small that there are billions in the adult lungs. Their very small sizes produce maximum surface area, where the actual exchange of gases between the air in the alveolar spaces and the adjacent blood capillaries takes place. In the alveoli, oxygen from the air is absorbed into the blood. Carbon dioxide, a waste product of metabolism, travels from the blood to the alveoli, where it can be exhaled.
Between the alveoli is a thin layer of cells called the interstitium, which contains blood vessels and cells that help support the alveoli.
A thin tissue layer called the pleura covers the lungs. The same kind of thin tissue lines the inside of the chest cavity – also called pleura. A thin layer of fluid acts as a lubricant allowing the lungs to slip smoothly as they expand and contract with each breath.
Bronchitis is an inflammation or swelling of the bronchial tube, which is the air passage between the nose and the lungs. Bronchitis occurs when the lining of the bronchial tubes becomes inflamed or infected. Bronchitis may be either acute or chronic.
Acute bronchitis develops from a cold or other respiratory infection and is very common. It usually improves within a few days without lasting effects, though the cough continues for weeks. But if the repeated bouts of bronchitis prolongs, it can become chronic bronchitis, which requires medical attention.
Chronic bronchitis, a more serious condition, is a constant irritation or inflammation of the lining of the bronchial tubes, often due to smoking or pollution. Chronic bronchitis is defined as a productive cough that lasts at least three months for two consecutive years.
Acute bronchitis is generally caused by lung infections, due to the virus that cause colds and influenza.
Repeated attacks of acute bronchitis, which weaken and irritate bronchial airways over time, can result in chronic bronchitis. The most common cause of chronic bronchitis is smoking cigarettes. Air pollution and dust or toxic gases in the environment or workplace also can contribute to the condition.
It is better to be aware of the following symptoms to prevent the condition from worsening.
• Cough that produces mucus, which may be clear or yellow-green
• Fatigue • Slight fever and chills
• Shortness of breath that gets worse with activity
• Chest discomfort
Asana practice improves the efficiency of the lungs and keeps the flow of breath smooth. Inverted and backward bending poses improve the function of the respiratory system.
Practice of pranayama and kriyas cleans the respiratory track (mucociliary clearance) and improves the lung capacity. Pranayama is greatly used in treating bronchitis for the muscles to relax and to stay at comfort level. Deep breathing pranayama helps the muscles to obtain fresh air and relax. In the following asanas, we are using the Sugatha prop. Sugatha prop was a ground breaking creation by Guruji Dr Asana Andiappan in 1967. It is primarily used for assisted inversions such as Vipareetha Karani mudra and Halasana. This prop is scientifically tested and studied for many decades for its therapeutic application for various diseases such as allergic symptoms, asthma, diabetes, digestive disorders, eye disorders, heart disease, insomnia, kidney disorders, sinusitis, thyroid disorders. Later this prop was used for practice of various basic, intermediate and advanced level asanas. It is now widely used by many yoga practitioners who enjoy the many health benefits it brings.
Viparita Karani (Half Shoulder Stand)
1. Sit on the edge of the Sugatha Prop and either hold onto the side handle or the outer edge of the Prop. Lie down on the back and raise the legs stretching up straight. Another option is to sit near the slanting edge of the Prop and roll over to lift up the legs.
2. Once the legs are straightened, hold the bottom edge handles, move the back closer to the slanting side. Rest the shoulder and head on the square cushion of the Prop.
3. The shoulders and the trunk are well supported and rested on the Prop. The legs are relaxed. The pose becomes lighter.
4. Stay for about 2-5 minutes with normal breathing. Slightly bend the knees if necessary.
Benefit: This improves the circulation and reduces the irritation in the bronchial tree.
Halasana (Plow Pose)
1. After performing Viparita Karani, exhale and lower both legs behind the head.
2. Stretch the legs back and rest them on a stool. This helps to stay in the pose comfortably without labouring the breath.
3. Keep the pelvis above the shoulders so the legs are fully extended.
4. Stay in this pose for about 2-3 minutes comfortably with soft breathing awareness on the throat..
Benefit: It stimulates the thyroid glands and clears the blocks in the nostril
Ustrasana (Camel Pose)
1. Sit in Vajrasana (Diamond pose). Kneel on the cushion with knees slightly apart, pressing the toes flat on the sides of the Prop.
2. Place both palms behind on the Prop and push the hip forward, pulling the thighs up and curving the spine, expanding the ribs.
3. Contract the buttocks and stretch the neck backwards.
4. Stay in this pose with even breaths for about 10-20 seconds.
Benefit: The whole spine is stretched and expands the lungs
Bhujangasana (Cobra Pose)
1. Stay on all fours with hands and knees on the mat in Marjariasana (cat pose) facing the Prop.
2. Move forward and rest the chest on the slanting edge of the Prop with the hands holding either the sides or the seat of the Prop.
3. Inhale and lift the chest up and stretch the legs back with the feet apart.
4. Stay in this pose with even breaths for about 10-20 seconds.
Benefit: It massages the posterior lobes of the lungs and stimulates the abdominal organs.
Jala Neti Kriya
1. A lota (water container) – a small pot with a long spout – also called Jala neti pot is used to pour water into the nose. It is generally made of brass, stainless steel or plastic.
2. Take salty and lukewarm water in the lota and pour it through the right nostril.
3. The head is tilted to allow the water to flow through the nasal cavity and out through the left nostril, keeping the mouth open and breathing through the mouth. This helps the smooth flow of the water from one nostril to the other. Caution: do not breath through nostril by mistake.
4. Repeat the same in the other side and do it for about 2-3 rounds.
Benefits: It is beneficial for illnesses like bronchitis and asthma as it reduces the tendency to breathe from the mouth by cleaning the mucus from the nostril. It helps to get rid of all the harmful bacteria in the nasal cavity.
Sundara Kriya (Cheerful Breathing Technique)
1. Sit in Padmasana or Sukhasana.
2. Keep the back erect and shoulders relaxed.
3. Inhale, raise the arms up with palms open
4. Exhale forcefully with palms closed downward.
5. The body is kept relaxed while repeating the whole process without any muscular tension.
6. Repeat this for 5-10 times about 3 rounds.
Benefits: It refreshes the whole body and cleanses the nasal cavity, respiratory track and the lungs..
Adho Mukha Kriya (Downward Facing Breath Cleansing)
1. Start in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward facing dog).
2. Inhale in this pose. Exhale, go to plank pose, where the body with both the legs and arms straight and the back flat.
3. Inhale, return to Downward Facing Dog.
4. Repeat this same 5 times for a about 3 rounds
Benefits: This strengthens the diaphragm, enlarging the cavity creates suction that draws air into the lungs.
A healthy body and mind alleviates most of the problems of respiratory system.
Avoid exposure to dusty or polluted environment.
Practise kriyas, the yogic cleansing techniques, regularly. By practising asana and pranayama at the initial stage, bronchitis can be controlled.
Consult a general practitioner if you suffer from either a cold or influenza for more than one or two weeks.