Beneath your breath- The New Indian Express


Express News Service

A few years ago, Mumbai-based fitness expert Miten Kakaiya experienced fatigue, disrupted metabolism and low immunity. He reached out to a colleague who, recognising that Kakaiya’s issues were rooted in mental and emotional aspects, suggested he try tummo breathing. 

Also called Chandali yoga, tummo is one of the six dharmas of Naropa, a set of advanced Tibetan Buddhist tantric practices. It uses bioenergetic breathing and visualisation to boost energy and agility. After three sessions of 45-minute each, Kakaiya noticed enhanced metabolic functions and sharper executive functions. 

“As a go-getter, I was striving to advance my career, overlooking the importance of balance. Tummo helped me slow down. I am still as driven, but I have ditched the maddening rush to get ahead,” says Kakaiya.

In a world where stress and anxiety are as common as morning coffee, a group of ‘breathfluencers’ is leading the way in popularising unconventional breathing techniques that combine ancient wisdom with modern approaches to address various health conditions. Here’s how these new age healers are changing the breathscape.

Wim Hof Method: Our screen-dominated lives lead to physical inactivity and often leave us drained. The Wim Hof breathwork offers to break free from sedentary inertia. “The method encourages the pulling and expulsion of air from the lungs fully by engaging the lower respiratory tract, which often remains inactive. It not only involves controlled hyperventilation, which reduces carbon dioxide levels in the blood, but also ‘turns off’ the sympathetic nervous system response, bringing the body back to its ‘rest and digest’ state,” says Delhi-based breathwork coach Yash Sharma. “It is beneficial for people with inflammatory conditions and athletes looking to improve muscle endurance,” he says.

How to:
· Breathe deeply through the nose and exhale through the mouth
· Repeat this 30 times 
· On the 30th breath, exhale 90 percent of the air and hold the remaining for as long as possible
· When you feel the urge to breathe, inhale and hold for 15 seconds before letting it out
· Repeat three times

Buteyko Breathing: The fast-paced lifestyle often leads to shallow, inefficient breathing. “When you don’t breathe right, the oxygen and carbon dioxide balance in your bloodstream get disrupted, opening the pandora’s box of health issues. Buteyko aims to restore the breath to our primal rhythms—slow and deep,” says Bhopal-based cardiopulmonary physiotherapist Ajita Misra, adding, “The method improves respiratory function, sleep quality and protection from infections and allergies.” This method was traditionally used to treat asthma, anxiety and sleep disorders, but Misra is pushing the boundaries to work on conditions such as snoring, chronic fatigue syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, racing mind syndrome, craniofacial development, even dental hygiene in children.

How to
· Since the emphasis here is controlled nasal breathing, mouth taping, a training support designed for mouth breathers, is recommended
· Inhale, hold, exhale, allowing your abdomen to expand and fall
· Before inhaling again, pause; this helps to maintain optimal carbon dioxide levels
· Repeat several times

Holotropic Breathing: Ruchi Mathur, a Bengaluru-based early child development educator, initially doubted the effectiveness of breathwork. She, however, experienced a transformative shift after a five-day emotional healing workshop using holotropic breathing, a modality developed by psychiatrist Stanislav Grof. This practice helped her address the grief of her mother’s sudden passing and emerge from her reclusive state. “Rooted in psychedelic research and transpersonal psychology, the technique is being used not just to prevent disease, but also to promote spiritual advancement by helping one slip into altered states of consciousness, facilitating deeper self-exploration,” says Mumbai-based fitness and breathwork coach Divy Chheda.

How to:
· Get into a reclining position
· Begin breathing in a rhythm most natural to you
· Start breathing rapidly and deeply, maintaining a brisk pace. The inhale should seamlessly transition into the exhale in a cyclic pattern. 
Do this for 10 minutes.
· Transition into long deep breaths for five minutes before reducing the pace

Tummo Technique: Once used by Tibetan monks to endure the extreme cold, its most profound benefit is that it “tones up the vagus nerve, responsible for functions like heart pumping, digestion, respiration, vasomotor activity and certain reflex actions. There are several ways to stimulate this nerve, but Tummo is one of the most effective”, says Kakaiya.

How to:
· Place your hands on the stomach and visualise a fire emerging from the navel, spreading heat throughout the body
· Lean back slightly and inhale deeply through the nose, expanding the torso and chest, fuelling the fire. Curl the spine forward and exhale forcefully through pursed lips.
· Repeat five times, imagining the heat increasing. After the fifth round, direct your attention to the space between the diaphragm and the pelvic floor and hold your breath here.
· Let go gently

Lymphatic Breathing Exercises: Because of the rising awareness about preventative health, lymphatic breathing exercises, which clear toxins from the body, have seen a surge in popularity. “Covid-19 gave this modality an impetus when traditional practices such as qigong and yoga garnered attention,” says Gurugram-based pulmonary physiotherapist and myofunctional therapist Sakshee Jain, also the founder of LymphBreathe. It’s also known as 360-degree breathing because all the body parts expand in a full-angle direction, allowing for oxygenation of the blood, facilitating lymphatic drainage. They are particularly beneficial for reducing swelling and edema as excess fluid is removed from affected areas.

How to:
· Imagine wearing a belt around the waist. Breathe slowly into ‘belt’ area (belly, lower ribs, back) 
through your nose
· Do this continuously for three to five minutes

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