For many people, spring means one thing: Allergies. From grass to dust, nose-foes are everywhere. But new research suggests the simplest treatments can be the most effective. Just learning how to breathe and keep your nasal passages clean can decrease allergy symptoms dramatically. World-renowned yoga instructor Gwen Lawrence shows us how with her must-do breathing tips.
The importance of breath work
SheKnows.com: Breathing is a core element of yoga, whether you’re performing various poses or simply meditating. Why is it so important?
Gwen Lawrence: With every breath, we inhale particles such as dust, germs, smoke, dander and pollutants (all of which can cause allergies). The nose acts as a natural air filter, protecting the body from these impurities.
Breathing through the nose, as is required in the Ayurvedic and yoga traditions, promotes a calming effect, whereas breathing through the mouth is in sync with hyperventilation (and, therefore, our fight-or-flight response system).
Breathing can heal the body
SheKnows.com: Why is breath work a unique way to heal the body?
Gwen Lawrence: Among all-natural self-healing techniques, breath work is unique because breathing is the only conscious means of improving, maintaining and repairing the body’s other systems.
Heartbeat, heart rate, blood pressure, circulation, digestion, hormone secretion and mental and emotional states can all be controlled, regulated and healed through proper breathing practices. Once the body is healthy, nourished and calmed through proper breath work, the body can concentrate on reaching its full potential.
Breathing technique to improve nasal and lung health
SheKnows.com: What can we do to improve our nasal passages and lung capacity?
Gwen Lawrence: Here is an amazing yogic breath you can do at work, in the car or any time you feel the need to step back and take a breather:
- Inhale through your nose to your fullest capacity.
- Hold the breath.
- Take in a little more; keep holding.
- Take in a little more; keep holding (this stretches the lungs and the intercostal muscles, the muscles between the lungs that help with breathing).
- Hold for the count of 10 (only if you can… work up to a 10-count if you feel like you’re struggling).
- Slowly exhale through the nose, using your stomach muscles to push every bit of air out.
Nasal rinsing can reduce allergy symptoms
SheKnows.com: Outside of proper breathing techniques, what tips and tricks do you recommend to clear the airways?
Gwen Lawrence: Before you can even think of starting to breathe through your nose, you must, as I recommend to all of my students, get into the habit of nasal rinsing.
Even with proper breathing, many particles remain in the nasal and sinus passages and can cause irritation or allergies. During nasal rinsing, a saline water solution is inserted into the upper nostril while the head is tilted, flushing out impurities not naturally filtered by the nose.
I fully recommend, and use myself, a great new product called Afrin PureSea. Being a very health-conscious person, I never recommend a product that I do not trust and use myself. This product is an all-natural nasal rinse made of 100 percent purified seawater to cleanse your nasal and sinus passages of mucus, pollutants and irritants so you can breathe free.
In a product like Afrin PureSea, the concentration of salt is reduced to prevent discomfort and stinging, but the trace minerals and elements are preserved to better match the composition of the human body. It is a sterile product and does not require any mixing.
For more information on yoga or Gwen Lawrence, visit her website at YogaWithGwen.com.