Can you help your Hay Fever with yogic breathing?
Hay fever can be a nightmare, especially this time of year. Also known as ‘allergic rhinitis’, symptoms include: runny nose, itchy eyes, sneezing, fatigue, and a stuffy nose due to congestion. If you prefer not to take the conventional medical route of antihistamines or steroid nasal sprays, there are recommended home remedies that include: keeping windows closed, wearing glasses/sunglasses, washing your hands and not touching your face after petting animals, using a dehumidifier, mite proof bed linen, and eating honey from your local area. There is however a yogic breathing technique that can be particularly helpful this time of year.
Alternate Nostril Breathing (Anuloma Viloma/Nadi Shodhana)
In Yoga we breathe in and out of the nose because the sinuses and our nasal hairs, filter out foreign particles that we’re breathing in, like pollen or dust. (That’s why you should avoid over plucking or cutting nose hairs during allergy season!) In Alternate Nostril Breathing, as the name suggests, you breathe in and out of one nostril alternatively, which helps clear congestion and strengthens the respiratory system. This breathing technique also balances the anabolic and catabolic rhythms of the body (the process of breaking down and building up biomolecules in the body), which can become disturbed with allergic rhinitis.
- With your right hand, bend your index and middle finger so that the tips touch the palm of your hand. Practice using your right thumb to press and block the right nostril, and your ring and little finger to block the left nostril. (Lift the right elbow slightly so that it’s not constricting your lung capacity)
- Take a deep breath in with both nostrils and then using the thumb to block the right nostril, breathe out fully through the left one.
- Then breathe in fully through the left nostril, block it with your last 2 fingers, release the thumb and breathe out through the right nostril.
- Breathe in again through the right nostril and continue swapping as above, for a minimum of 1 minute.
As the technique helps clear the pathways to the lungs you should have some tissues nearby so that you can blow your nose if needed during or after. It is also normal to have one nostril more blocked than the other, but this breathing method helps equalize the flow of oxygen taken in to the lungs, and to both hemispheres of the brain.
If however one of your nostrils is too blocked to breathe out of, then this technique may not be feasible. You can try massaging the side of your nose and under the eye bag to break down mucus in the sinus cavity, before blowing your nose, to relieve congestion on that side.
Other than a fully blocked nostril, there are no contraindications to alternate nostril breathing, and it can be done by anyone of any age, during pregnancy and after surgery. Besides it’s benefits to allergy season, it also calms the central nervous system and balances the pathways to the left and right hemispheres of the brain. It is a calming and relaxing breathing technique that is very effective on both adults and children.
Leave me a comment below to let me know how you get along!