Sniff, cough…breathe…

Colds and respiratory infections are doing the rounds what with the weather getting hotter. Today is Shivarathri in India–An occasion where most Indian families stay awake all through the night and pay homage to the maverick and powerful God Shiva. In Bangalore where I live, the arrival of this festival usually signifies a change in weather patterns, heralding a tropical summer.

I get into the lift at the office building and all I hear are sniffles and cough of various kinds and tenors. People have begun joking about passing on infection to others and being crowned for the one who passed it on to the most number of people. Well, in a country as populated as ours, need you look hard?

Respiratory tract infections can decimate one’s immunity levels and leave you tired and enervated. Having gone through a round of bronchitis and a subsequent relapse, I’ve been laboring to start breathing normally and where speaking was not a chore anymore, so I thought I should put down what I’ve learnt from this process.

Yes, the usual round of strong (enough to sink a ship) kind of antibiotics for the infection is the first method of attack followed by adequate rest and nutritious food and staying warm, but if one has to regain lost energy levels and prevent recurrent infections, a few precautions must be taken. And these remedies don’t usually lie in popping another goddamn pill.

Drinking hot tea (or water) with lemon juice is a simple way to keep the throat lubricated and warm all day.  At nights, a cup of hot water with honey, black pepper powder and ginger can relieve the tendency to cough when supine. For those who can take milk, hot milk with pepper and turmeric can calm the throat and lull it to sleep along with the rest of you. Steam inhalation with eucalyptus oil and throat gargling with chamomile tea or saline water are few other proven methods.

Mild exercise, staying hydrated, and a quick round of multivitamins (zinc, magnesium and B12, preferably from natural sources such as fruits and eggs, fish, greens, carrots) can get you of that drained, I can’t talk or move feeling. 

Personally for me, restorative yoga has helped. Asanas like uttanasana (forward bends), pashcimottanasana, janushirshsana, virabhadrasana (2), cat pose, child pose and a few others open up the chest and nasal passages and smoothen the breath. (www.yogajournal.com  for poses or http://www.asthangafriends.4t.com/Yoga_Poses.html)  For those who are willing to work on pranayama, bhastrika (bellows) for about 3 minutes can clear phlegm and widen the respiratory tract, open the sinuses and even get rid of a headache. Of course, if you are a beginner, please do all of these only under the supervision of a practiced, certified teacher.  And if Yoga is not your thing, even sitting at your desk with shoulders pulled further away from your ears and chest expanded is a good way to breathe right. Sitting straight resting on your sit bones rather than your spine, neck resting in a comfortable position and inhaling and exhaling fully (Ujjayi or victorious) breath calms the organs in the upper body and needless to say, the mind.

 

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