Colds, flu, allergies, bronchitis, asthma, and other illnesses that restrict the chest with congestion and pain can be debilitating. Yoga asanas are beneficial for all respiratory disorders if they are practiced regularly. The practice of postures loosen the tight muscles of the rib cage and the diaphragm so that the breath can expand more fully. When chest mobility is high, the incidence of respiratory illness is reduced. The following poses will help you open the chest, and ability to breathe if your sinuses are congested.
UTTANASANA (FORWARD FOLD)
This posture helps with nasal and throat diseases. Stand with the spine straight, feet together and hands beside the body.
Put the weight of the body on both feet. Slowly fold forward with a flat back, hinging from the hips (avoid bending at the waist) and sweeping the arms down by your sides, reaching the fingertips towards the floor in front of or besides the feet. If this is not possible, bend the knees or reach the hands to shins or blocks. Encourage a forward pelvic tilt as the sit bones widen and lift. Equally lengthen the front torso and back as you move deeper into the position. Relax the weight of the head downward.
You can try the variation of “Rag doll” – separate your feet hip-width apart, catch opposite elbows and let the entire upper body hang down, relaxing head, neck, and arms.
COBRA POSE (BHUJANGASANA)
This asana stretches the muscles around your rib cage. Bring the hands under the shoulders , fingers facing forward. Press your hips against the floor and exhaling, lift your chest upward slowly, using your arms for support. Keep your legs straight pressing into the ground. To take pressure out of the low back, open the feet hip width and turn the toes slightly in. You should feel a gentle contraction in your lower back. For less intensity, remain in sphinx, which provides the same effects but in a gentler way.
BOW POSE (DHANURASANA)
This posture opens the chest, which facilitates deep breathing and enhances the delivery of oxygen to the tissues.
Lie flat on your abdomen with forehead on the ground, feet together, and arms beside the body. Bend the legs and hold the ankles. Inhale deeply and hold the breath while pushing the feet away and upwards, raising chest and head up. Continue breathing and hold the final position for as long as is comfortable. Then slowly release the pose to the starting position.
HALF SPINAL TWIST (ARDHA MATSYENDRASANA)
Sit on the ground with your legs straight in front of the body. Inhale, bend the right leg and place the right foot outer side of the left knee. Bend the left leg and place left foot near the right buttock. Lengthen spine. Exhale, twist your torso to the right and bring the left arm outside of the right knee. the right leg should be pressing against the left arm. Take the right arm behind the back. You should not strain or force anything in this pose. Hold for 30 seconds. Inhale untwist the spine. Exhale straight legs and repeat other side.
For those with stiff bodies, instead of bending one leg and placing its foot by the side of the buttock, that leg can remain straight.
SHOULDER STAND (SARVANGASANA)
Lie down on your back, arms parallel to the body with the palms facing down by the hips. Press the arms strongly into the floor to roll the hips and spine up and stack the hips directly over the shoulders as the toes move towards the head, legs parallel to the floor. Bend the elbows and take support of the lower back with the hands, fingers pointing towards the hips. Walk your hands up your back towards the shoulders without letting the elbows slide away from each other. Lift the legs up straight in line with the hips using the core. Push the chest against the chin. Keep the face relaxed. Try to stay in this pose for some time.
FISH POSE (MATSYASANA)
This pose improves the capacity of the lungs, relieves asthma, and helps to improve the functioning of the thyroid and parathyroid glands.
Lie flat on your back, feet together, arms beside, and palms facing down. Place your arms under your body. Inhale, bend your elbows and raise your chest up. Keep the weight on the elbows and with exhalation lower the crown of the head on the ground. Soften the area around the throat. Hold the pose for 30 seconds. Inhale and holding breath with elbow support rise up. Exhale, rest on the ground, arms out.
ROARING LION POSE (SIMHAGARJANASANA)
Lion’s pose removes tension from the throat, chest and diaphragm. It also helps push the stale air out of the lungs.
Sit in thunderbolt pose with the knees apart, the toes of feet touch each other. Lean forward and place the palms of the hands on the ground between the knees, with the fingers pointing towards the body. Gaze at the eyebrow centre. Inhale, and as you exhale open the mouth and stick out the tongue as far as possible. While exhaling, produce a steady sound of the lion from the throat. At the end of exhalation, relax your tongue and breath in. This is one round. Repeat 5 to 10 rounds daily.
CAMEL POSE (USHTRASANA)
To begin with this pose, stand on the knees, toes on the floor, heels up (feet flexed), and knees with legs hip-width apart. Inhale. Holding breath, lean backward and place your hands on the lower back, fingers pointing down. Push the hips forward, keep the neck in line with your spine and lift your chest upward. Stay in this pose for as long as is comfortable.
If you are more advanced, you can rest on tops of the feet on the ground. Leaning backward, reach right heel with the right hand and left heel with the left hand. Push your hips forward. Bend the spine and head backward. Hold for 30 seconds.
CROCODILE POSE (MAKARASANA)
This asana allows more air to enter the lungs.
Lie flat on the stomach. Raise the head and shoulders and put the chin in the palms of the hands with the elbows touching the floor. Relax all body and close the eyes.
Inverted poses help promote proper movement of the diaphragm during an exhalation. Headstand strengthen the lungs, helps asthma, colds and sinusitis.
Drop the knees and elbows to the floor. Reach the hands around the elbows to measure the distance. Interlace all 10 fingers together, leaving a hollow space between the palms. Push firmly down through the outside edge of the little fingers and the forearms. Place the top of the head on the floor in the space formed by your cupped hands. Firm the shoulder blades against the ribs and press strongly through the forearms as you start to lift the hips and walk the feet towards the head. Keep the hips un and knees straight. In this position you are getting a lot of the benefits of a headstand without your feet ever leaving the ground.
If you are comfortable in the headstand prep position, walk the feet in until the hips are stacked as closely over the shoulders. Bend the knees in towards the chest. Bring the heels up to the buttocks. Back straight spine retains natural curve. (Learn to stay here before going to the next stage). Keeping the knees bent and together, slowly straighten the hips until the front knees are pointing the ceiling. The weight should be in the arms, not in the head. To come out of the pose, bend the knees, bringing them into the chest. Bend the hips bringing the feet to the floor. Relax in child’s pose for a few breaths.
There are modifications to your start:
- practice against the wall with blocks for support
- blanket placed over the arms and under the head