“The sun is the prana of the universe. It rises to help the prana in the eye to see.”
Prasna Upanishad, 3.8
Breathing underpins your physical, mental and emotional well-being and breathing techniques are essential to cleanse your body and your energy system.
Swami Saradananda recommends daily cleansing of respiratory system as a requisite in view to learn good meditation techniques and also as an everyday practice. She guides you to practical execises on the art of breathing, suggesting cleansing tecniques and reveiling how to direct and manipulate the energies within your body, known in Indian yoga philosophy as prana.
Understanding the anatomy of the respiratory system, its physical structure, its physiology and what happens when air passes into your lungs and out again is fundamental. Here an extract of the book that delves into two easy and effective exercises to cleanse your nasal passages and sinus cavities.
How your breath works
Your respiratory system stretches from your nose to your lungs, encompassing your nasal passages and sinus cavities, the back of your throat (pharynx), and your voice box (larynx), windpipe (trachea), bronchial tubes and lungs. It serves two life-giving purposes – bringing oxygen into your body and releasing waste matter – and enables a uniquely human quality, your ability to speak.
Each time you inhale, your respiratory system fulfills its first function, bringing atmospheric air into your lungs. The oxygen within this air is absorbed into your bloodstream and then transported to every cell in your body. Without this oxygen, your cells would die in a few minutes. The second task of your respiratory system is cleansing. Each time you exhale, you release gaseous waste matter from your body, mainly by products of metabolism. As you breathe out, air passes over your vocal cords, allowing you to express yourself through your own unique sound. In no other body system does the outside environment, with all its germs and pollution, have so much contact with your sterile inner regions.
Cleansing your respiratory system
The first goal of breathing exercises is to cleanse and strengthen your respiratory system. The exercises here are good ways to cleanse your nasal passages and sinus cavities before starting any other breathing exercise.
Hold and blow
Practitioners of the Buteyko method recommend practising the following cleansing method 3–5 times daily. Keeping your mouth closed, simply breathe in through your nose, then out. Now pinch your nostrils closed. Imagine trying to blow your nose and maintain a gentle pressure for about 5 seconds, with your nose and mouth closed. Release your nostrils and very gently breathe in through your nose.
Many people like to cleanse the nasal passages and sinuses with a salt-water solution after brushing their teeth in the morning. This removes dust, pollen and excess mucus and can help if you have asthma, allergies or respiratory problems. You can buy neti pots from health-food shops, pharmacies or online. Practise in front of a mirror so that you can see your nostrils.
Dissolve 1⁄2 teaspoon of fine sea-salt into a cup of lukewarm water and then pour it into the neti pot. Leaning over a sink, inhale and hold your breath, making sure that you keep your mouth closed. Tighten the back of your throat as if to gargle. Tilt your head left and slowly pour the water into your right nostril. Let gravity drain the water out through your left nostril. Do not inhale. Blow your nose and repeat the process on the left nostril, this time tilting your head to the right.
If you are looking to understand more about how our respiratory system works and how to enhance your focus and self- confidence through breathing exercises and techniques, take a look at The Power of Breath by Swami Saradananda.