ALTERNATIVE HEALING M10 THE MAGAZINE
India Abroad February 27, 2015
Everybody knows that deep breaths are healing. Even conventional medicine — in a roundabout way — makes ome connection to a weak breathing and a weakened system overall.
Strong breathing seems to be a sign of health but
just how much of the body’s health depends on
it? The answer to that remains pretty
vague. One does not know how to gauge that.
When a sportsman has played himself to
exhaustion he recovers fast enough if he is in the
peak of health. We admire strong performers as
much for their physical skills as for their ability
to look comfortable while executing their performances – an aspect of which definitely comes
from a strong breathing capacity.
Alternative therapies see a psychosomatic connection between lung health and emotional
issues. According to Louise L Hay, the well being
of your lungs is a reflection of how one takes on
life. Inability to face up fully to what life has in
store for us may be exhibited in weak breathing
responses to stress. In chakra psychology lungs
are related to the higher and fourth chakra
ana-hata, and related to love (towards oneself, others
and the universe).
Austere meditation, inspired by Buddhism,
emphasizes watching your breathing. This
rather mundane activity can induce brain wave
patterns different from normal patterns, which
are usually the highly active Beta wave form.
In this state of meditation, when you have sufficient practice, the brain waves are said to enter
the more healing and relaxing theta and delta
wave pattern. Major hormones are released from
the master glands during delta wave activity.
Disrupted delta wave patterns are now behind
many neurological and physical problems –
Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, schizophrenia, narcolepsy, insomnia, sleep walking, arthritis,
fibromyalgia — to name just a few.
It is not exactly clear how watching one’s
breath may induce a different wave form while
awake. It may be somewhere related to the fact
that a highly active part of the nervous system,
called the reticular formation, is relaxed from its
hypervigilance. This in turn positively affects
most systems, including your breathing, creating
a rhythmic pattern which in turn creates a cascade of positive healing responses in all your
Vipassana, one of the most well-known types
of Buddhist meditation, focuses on watching
your breathing. Pranavidya and apanasana are
used in yoga. Some poses induce these breath-ing-meditative states naturally, especially the
seated forward bends.
Pranayama is the most celebrated and yet the
most neglected aspect of yoga. It is the best way
to naturally and systematically, as well as scientifically,
improve your breathing capacity. Most of its practices work
by extending or training exhalation. We are all normally
taught to improve our inhalation. But in yoga we do the
This works in a very commonsensical method. Unless you
pull the very last bit of your breath from your lungs
(through controlled exhalation) your inhalation, however
deep, is pretty much useless.
In kapalabthati (skull-cleanser) breathing your the
breath is thrown out in a hyperventilating fashion, to clear
and expand lung capacity.
In anulom vilom (alternative nostril breathing) the ratio
of exhalation is proportionately extended so that if you
inhale for a count of four, you exhale to the count of eight.
This proportion is increased every time you increase the
count in inhalation, making it a very powerful breath-boosting practice indeed.
Brahmari (humming bee) is a prolonged exhalation
whose length is decided by the volume of your lungs. In
fact all these practices expand your lung volume by fine-tuning your exhalation, thus boosting your overall respiratory capacity.
The index finger in mudra therapy (as well as yoga) rep-
resents the air element in the body. Ideally mudras should
not be self-prescribed and be taught by an expert. Also,
except in chronic cases, once the problem is sorted the
mudra practice should also be stopped. In chronic cases
too, it must be modulated as per the histo-
ry of the ailment and modulated accord-
Pressing down your index finger with the
thumb (for each hand) decreases the air
element. In respiratory problems caused
by hyper anxiety, this must be tried.
Lightly touching the index finger with the
tip of the thumb increases it. In problems
caused by lethargy of the mind, the opposite may be tried. Often symptoms will
appear to be the same. It is best to know
the root of the problem before prescribing
a mudra for oneself.
You may use aroma oils in diffusers, in
foot massages, as gargles, or body massages, or room sprays. Some powerful oils
that boost respiratory capability are basil,
thyme, eucalyptus. Others are the soothing, uplifting jasmine, and grounding
In the most usual lung-related problem
commonly available green stones may be
used for healing. (If you see the chakra
connection to crystal therapy than it is
rather easy to select your stones based on
awareness of the root of the problem).
Common green stones are emerald,
green jade, aventurine, peridot. But where
there is a mucus congestion, warmer
stones like amber may be used. Where it is
caused by heart/love related problems, you
may try rose stones for a gentle healing.
Where one is confused and nervous, higher chakra stones like purple-hued
amethyst and charoite may be used. Blue-green stones are prescribed for overall
lung health. These include the liquid beauties of chrysocolla, fluorites, prehenite,
serpentine. The brilliant watermelon tourmaline, lapis lazuli may be used where it
comes from a struggle with expressing
oneself in life and love. You may use these
gemstones, by keeping it close to your
body, wear as jewelry, have crystal elixirs
(see earlier columns).
In yoga, all chest openers are said to
boost respiratory capacity. These include
poses like matysasana (fish), backbends
like bhujangasana (cobra), dhanurasana
(bow), sarpasana (snake), to name a few.
Standing backbends include ardha chan-drasana (crescent). Floor poses include all
variations of the marjariasana (cat).
Not surprisingly, acupressure points for
lung health are activated in yogic poses listed above. A regular yoga practice activates these points powerfully. For
lungs, the acupressure points are at the top of the chest,
adjacent to the collarbones, at the shoulder blades at the
upper back, and at the wrist, where it meets the arm. As
you can see, all the above backbends from yoga touch upon
these points in a healing manner. n
Shameem Akthar is a yogacharya trained with the Sivananda Yoga Vedanta Center. Catch Shameem's yoga tips on http://jaisivananda.blogspot.com
Disclaimer: This column shares the columnist's passion for alternative therapies which are ideally learned under the guidance of an expert
Shameem Akthar shows you tricks
to power your breathing and improve
your overall health.
Tiger lungs! PARESH GANDHI