Yoga for preventing Cold, Asthma and Allergies   
by: Vasanthi Bhat (

Almost everyone has suffered through the horrible experience of having a cold or allergies during the chilly winter season. However, all the discomforts of a cold or allergy can be prevented through the regular practice of some simple breathing techniques (Pranayama) and the yoga postures.

The practice of pranayama involves a controlled awareness of the breath. This technique relaxes the lungs thereby helping the lungs to absorb more oxygen. Increased oxygen boosts the immune system and energy level thereby alleviating chronic colds, asthma, sinus congestion, allergies, emphysema, snoring, and other lung ailments. Here are some simple pranayama techniques anyone can practice at any time during the day.

Exercise 1:
Complete Breathing Sit comfortably with your back straight. Close your eyes. Focus your awareness on your natural breath. Gently prolong the exhalation while pulling your stomach in as much as possible. As you breathe in, let your compressed stomach come up naturally, making sure you do not expand it more than normal. Breathe out from the chest to the stomach while pulling the stomach in as slowly as you can. Good complete breathing always starts with good exhalation. Do this procedure gently and slowly, making sure to never allow your stomach to jerk as you breathe. Practice for about 15 breaths or 1-2 minutes. Rest for 10-15 seconds before you start another pranayama.

Exercise 2:
Alternate Nostril Breathing Sit comfortably with your back straight. Close your eyes. Rest the index and middle fingers of your right hand on your eyebrow center. Close your right nostril with your thumb. Left-handed people need to switch the thumb and ring finger. Breathe in moderately through your left nostril and close it with your ring finger. Open your right nostril and breathe out gently. Breathe in through the right nostril and close your left nostril. Breathe out through your left nostril and start the next round. Practice 3-5 rounds.

Exercise 3:
Bellows Breathe
Assume a comfortable sitting position with your back straight. Breathe in deeply. Breathe out forcefully while contracting the stomach muscles quickly and rhythmically, pushing them toward the spine and relaxing the stomach muscles back to normal. Breathing in comes naturally in this process. Keep contracting and relaxing the stomach muscles until the active exhalation and passive inhalation sound like bellows. One round consists of 20 in and out breaths. Depending on your ability practice from as little as a few breaths to as many as you can comfortably handle.

Along with the practice of pranayama one can do some simple forward and backward bending postures to help deal with any ailments associated with the cold and flu season. The forward bending postures stretch and expand, thereby relax the thoracic cavity. When the upper back is stretched in such a manner, tension is released to provide benefits in that area, including the lungs. The backward bending techniques expand and purify the chest and lungs, allowing more oxygen to enter into the body. Some powerful postures include the cobra (Backward bending), the fish (Backward bending), the pose of the moon (Forward bending), and the preliminary leg-pull (Forward bending).

All these exercises are highly beneficial and can save a person weeks or perhaps months of agonizing through a cold or allergy. With the flu season approaching, now is a perfect time to start practicing yoga and making sure that this winter is going to be a healthy one!