If the travel bug is about to bite this holiday season and commuting by plane, train or another confined and communal form of transportation is about as delightful as an irritable rash, then try pranayama.
Whether it’s Samavritti, Visamavritti or Ujjayi (Brahmari, the humming bee breath, may be a tad annoying for fellow passengers), practice en route for the health of your body and enjoyment of your holiday!
When we breathe through our nose, turbinates filled with warm blood vessels work to warm and humidify the air, keeping cold air from reaching our lungs.
Lungs loathe the cold because it lessens their ability to oxygenate our blood. Turbinates are also lined with hair-like structures called cilia, which prevent foreign particles from entering our respiratory system and act as an immunological defence to protect our body from viral or bacterial infection.
When we default to mouth-breathing, we are bypassing optimal filtration, the respiratory organs are unprotected and we depend on our defenses in the gut, which are usually overtaxed by excess Christmas consumption.
Nasal breathing also generally slows our exhalation rate given the nose cavity is a comparatively smaller breathing vestibule than our mouth, and due to the improved absorption of nitric oxide through the nose, the blood vessels dilate increasing overall blood flow and lowering blood pressure.
Our ‘rest and relax’ autopilot, the parasympathetic nervous system, then positions the body for a state of optimum repair, rejuvenation and restoration.
And there’s more! Comparatively slower nasal breathing also acts as a meditative tool. We know that when we calm the breath, the mind will follow, and this state discourages hyperventilation and travel anxieties, the plight of many frequent travelers.
My rule of thumb when traveling is sealed with the KISS:
Keep the lips closed, leaving a slight gap in the teeth.
Inhale (and exhale) through the nose. You will find the body naturally slows the breath.
Sit back and let the body and mind relax.
Smile. You are on your way!
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Editor: Michelle Margaret
Image: elephant journal Archive