#EventReport: 5 Breathing exercises to boost immunity during the COVID-19 pandemic


Breathing is something we all do. Every day. All the time.

From the first breath at birth till the last breath at death, breathing is something we do without even thinking about it.

Breathing is living. It’s a vital function of life.

In the yoga tradition, breath is where a person’s life force resides, and it is referred to as pranayama.

Learning to work with the breath can have many benefits such as decreasing the effects of stress on the body as well as increasing overall physical and mental health.

In our online session with yogacharya Dr Pavitra Kumar moderated by Shalini Matai focused on 5 key pranayama breathing exercises to boost immunity. These were:

  1. Kapabhati
  2. Agnisara
  3. Suryabhedna
  4. Bhastrika
  5. Bahiya Kumbhaka

with Om chanting to complete the session. Recording of the session as below

Exercise 1: Kapalabhati. This rapid breathing technique is energizing and activates the sympathetic nervous system.

Sit up tall and lengthen the space between the navel and the heart. Breathe in and out through the nose. Draw your abdomen in during the exhalation and out during the inhalation. Make your breathing loud and quick. Try to equalize the strength and length of your inhales and exhales. Do not practice this breathing exercise if you struggle with vertigo or high blood pressure and it should be avoided by the pregnant women.

5 times alternate nostrils breathing, slow exhalation, forceful exhalation from the other nostril and so on 12 -20 times

Alternate nostril also 12-20 times

Slowly increase till you feel bit tired, build capacity

Eyes gently closed, so not to be disturbed by air pressure

Build capacity but do not push

Exercise 2: Agnisara – a yoga technique that combines elements of both pranayama and asana practice. The term comes from the Sanskrit, agni, which means “fire,” and sara, which means “energy,” “essence” or “cascade.”

Agnisara is typically practiced while standing or in a comfortable seated pose. If standing, the upper body leans forward and the hands rest atop the knees. The abdominal muscles are pulled in and up on an exhalation, then allowed to relax and return to their normal position on an inhalation.

1 stroke per second- 8 times

Exhale stomach goes in, forceful exhalation

Remember that Kapalabhati is from chest, Agnisara from stomach

Agnisara – 25 times in general, for problems unto 100 times. 15 times per minute

Shoulder rotation with inhale exhale

Arms up, fingers locked, chin down, inhale up, hold 5 seconds, face up, exhale – 5 times

Arms stretched out- inhale up, exhale down

Stand up-feet apart, hands on waist, exhale twist right, inhale center, exhale twist left, inhale center

Stand up-feet apart, left arm up inhale, exhale bend to right, inhale come up, repeat on other side

Forward bend – stand feet apart, arms up inhale, exhale bend forward- stay 5 breaths.

bend- Stand feet apart, hands at the back on waist, exhale bend backwards

Exercise 3: Suryabhedan Pranayam – Surya means the sun. In Surya Bhedan Pranayama the Surya Nadi or the right nostril channel is activated.

Suryabheda – close left nostril- breathe only from right side – inhale and exhale right nostril

Suryabhedan Pranayam- Close left, slow inhalation right, hold 5 count, exhale slowly left

Builds immunity, Helps Sinusitis, asthma, tonsillitis, low BP, digestion, diabetic, also helps balance Vata

Exercise 4: Bhastrika is an energetic pranayama exercise highly suitable for negating the sluggish feelings. This breathing method is also highly beneficial in weight loss, powering up the digestive system, and boosting the metabolism.

Long inhale- exhale with jerks (multiple) till complete breath exhausted

Bhastrika – for high BP and Heart problems – only 5, do gently

Exercise 5: Bahir Kumbhaka – is the controlled breathing with inhalation, holding the breath followed by exhalation.

Exhale, close nostrils, inhale. Hold maximum. Always followed ny Bhastrika

Number of Bhastrika = number of Bahir Kumbhaka

The 5 exercises were concluded with Om chanting.

Summary: Kapabhati, Alternate nostril, Agnisara, Suryabhedna , Bhastrika, Bahiya Kumbhaka, Om Chanting

Best times to practice – Morning and evening

Diet – empty stomach- Satvic foods- the ones that do not disturb our system.