The high stress levels coupled with increasing pollution is causing a plethora of respiratory problems among city-dwellers. Diseases like asthma and lung ailments have become quite common. In addition, respiration often provides symptoms of other ailments that a human body carries.

Modern medicine offers several cures for the respiratory diseases though none boasts of completely rooting out the causes. Ancient yogic practice draws up a list of breathing exercises that helps the body relax and cures people of several respiratory troubles.

Given below is a list of five simple yogic exercises that can help keep away chronic ailments like asthma and the more common ones like nasal blocks. Described as “Pranayama”, the essentials of this technique include (a) slowing and regularizing the breath, (b) enhancing abdominal breathing and (c) imposing restriction to inhalation and exhalation.

1) We normally associate prolonged exhalation or expiration to reduced cerebral activities like yawning, sighing and sleeping. But Yoga suggests that the time taken to exhale once should be roughly twice the time taken to inhale. Breathing out slowly is considered imperative for physical relaxation and should be practiced before moving to other breathing exercises.

2) Abdominal and diaphragmatic breathing can be practiced by concentrating on restricting the movement of the upper ribs and bulging a part of the abdominal wall. A major benefit of this breathing exercise is that it increases the lung capacity.

3) Improved resistance to breathing is achieved by putting pressure on the nostril in many ways like closing a nostril or the mouth. When the nostril is closed, the inward compression by the fingers stimulates the mucous membrane and results in increased patency of the nostrils by constriction of resistive and capacitative blood vessels. In addition, it may also assist voluntary partial closure of the glottis and cause a slowing down of the pulse.

4) Various combinations of alternate nostril occlusion during inhalation or exhalation are used, resulting in stimulation of both nasal cavities and producing changes in temperature, pressure, and airflow characteristics.

5) Yogic theory consistently states that there are important connections between the nasal passages and the psyche. During spontaneous breathing, inhaling through the left nostril is said by most people to have a calming, beneficial, stabilizing effect, while breathing through the right nostril is destabilizing, excitatory, and ultimately enervating. A balance between the two modes is thought to be most suitable for the challenges of daily life, and is put forth as a teleological explanation for the ultradian rhythm of congestion/decongestion that occurs in the nose throughout the day.