Who hasn’t felt the relaxing power of taking a deep breath of fresh air? It has the ability to bring about an instant sense of calmness and relaxation. It is, therefore, no wonder that breath and the ability to control and modulate your breathing is such an integral part of yoga and all relaxation techniques. Such is the power of the body working in conjunction with a natural element.
Especially when it comes to the respiratory system if one suffers from respiratory or breathing problems a natural approach, especially an Ayurvedic one is far safer and more beneficial in the long term. Conventional respiratory medication is often steroid based, meaning that the contents or chemicals in the prescribed medicine are reaching every part of the body via the oxygen in the bloodstream, and whilst they may work, they also can be responsible for triggering a host of other problems, like hormonal disturbances and affecting the delicate balance of our doshas and dhatu.
As always, the approach of Ayurvedic medicine and treatments are focused on re-creating the natural balance within our bodies in order to address the underlying medical issue, in essence, treating and dealing with the cause as opposed to just addressing the symptoms. All living beings on this planet, from plants to fish to humans require oxygen in order to survive. The human body has the ability to survive without showing any serious detrimental effects or three weeks without food, three days without water, but only three minutes without oxygen before negative effects start taking place.
Oxygen is the main source of life for most things on our planet, unfortunately, air pollution is ever increasing and is now a serious global concern. In some parts of the world, this has become a serious health epidemic. The air is filled with pollutants, harmful gases of a chemical constitution and other impurities. Exposure to this heavily contaminated air leaves our bodies open to a host of infections and diseases, that we find affecting us regularly and easily, as one cannot escape the air around us. Yes, we can purchase air purifying systems for our homes and paces or work we can take preventive measures and wear filtration masks when in public spaces, but we cannot completely protect ourselves from the polluted air no matter what measures we take.
Diseases and afflictions of the lungs and the respiratory system have a particularly high impact on young children and the elderly whose immune systems are underdeveloped or compromised. In developing countries, respiratory diseases are one of the leading causes of death amongst the young and old alike
The entire system of assimilating oxygen into our bodies is called the respiratory process and it includes and makes use of a variety of our body’s organs. In humans the respiratory process utilities the airways, the lungs and the respiratory group of muscles. A silent processes whereby molecules of oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged between our bodies and our external gaseous environment before being assimilated by our lungs and pumped around the entire body in the form of oxygenated blood, which is absorbed by each of our organs as required, Carbon dioxide is collected from the various parts of the body and transported back to the lungs where we expel it through exhalation. This exchange of gases is the vital method our respiratory system uses to oxygenate the blood and distribute it around the body.
Now that we have a better understanding of how the respiratory system functions, it is also essential to understand that, like all elements of the body, the respiratory system may develop illnesses and problems. Within the sphere of Ayurvedic medicine, respiratory problems, illnesses and diseases are deemed as treatable, but as with all afflictions, the sooner they are diagnosed and identified, the quicker and more efficiently they can be attended to and dealt with.
Respiratory problems and illnesses range from minor to serious, and as always within Ayurveda, each case and the patient will be diagnosed and treated as a separate and individual basis. From problems as minor as the common cold to diseases as serious as Emphysema, the science of Ayurvedic medicine can prevent, treat or cure the condition. Respiratory problems tend to affect two major areas of the respiratory system. Generally, they either affect the upper respiratory system, which consists of the mouth, throat, nose and the sinuses, or the lower respiratory system, namely the lungs and lower bronchial tubes.
There are many respiratory afflictions that can occur but some of the most regularly diagnosed by both Ayurveda and conventional medicine include; Chronic Bronchitis – this occurs when an increased mucus secretion is caused by an irritant that affects both the bronchioles and the bronchi resulting in a persistent cough due to a clogged air passage. Asthma – difficulty breathing because of a periodic obstruction of the bronchi and bronchioles. Pneumonia – is caused by an infection created by various viruses and bacteria, this results in a reduced surface area that can be exposed to air. Emphysema – Ths is caused by a breakdown of the alveoli (which are the numerous tiny air sacs of the lungs that allow for gases to be exchanged). This is a slowly developing condition that is frequently aggravated by smoking.
Some of the known causes of Respiratory Diseases are everyday occurrences or disorders that we are well aware of and exposed to on a regular basis, one of the primary trigger s of respiratory illnesses or diseases are our diets. Eating unhealthily, consuming excessive amounts of fast food, following a diet that consists mainly of processed food and does not include vegetables, fruit and unrefined or organic produce has a serious effect on the body’s immune system and leaves a person prone to illness and infections as their body cannot fight them off. The same can be said for lifestyle, lack of physical exercise, insufficient amounts for sleep and the accumulation of stress due to not process it through activities such as yoga, exercise or meditation also has a profound impact on the immunity of the body, leaving it open to a myriad scope of illnesses and infections.
Carrying around excessive weight or suffering from obesity irrespective of the cause is another condition that diminishes our immune systems ability to ward off any infectious disease looking for a host body to infect. When it comes to respiratory infections or diseases the smoking of cigarettes is a dual edged sword, not only does it severely impact our immune system, it also directly affects the entire respiratory system, making it prone to infection and diseases. In fact, two-thirds of all respiratory issues can directly be attributed to smoking and the consumption of nicotine. Apart from smoking the biggest culprit responsible for a variety of respiratory infections and diseases is air pollution.
Constant exposure to the microbes that are present in today’s environment and the fact that fact that the respiratory system comprises such a large surface area that is exposed to these toxic pollutants means that even with our built-in systems to naturally deter pathogens from entering the body via the process of respiration, they are simply not enough to prevent or deter air pollution from affecting us in the form of respiratory illness of disease.
When it comes to the treatment of respiratory illnesses, infections and diseases and their treatment with Ayurvedic medicines and therapies, there are numerous therapies that an and will be prescribed once a full diagnosis has been carried out by your Ayurvedic medical practitioner. These range from aspects of Panchakarma, specifically the treatment Virechana.
Abhyanga and Sweda may well make up part of the treatment regime as both of these have a direct effect on the chest, and other physical activities such as specific yoga Asanas and the practice of Pranayama to create awareness of our breathing techniques and strengthen the respiratory system.
As always diet will play an integral part of the treatment and all of the recommendations will have the focus on balancing the doshas and thereby creating a balanced immune system that will be the first line of defence against any respiratory condition irrespective of its cause.