The Science behind Pranayam

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Lockdown had many curses but it also had some positive sides. It is said that Nature aims to strike a balance between everything. Evidently, this statement has proven to be true and I completely agree with it. A slight amendment to this statement would be the fact that Nature would only be able to do so without the constant and malign interference of humans.

While I was studying from home from last year. I received ample time to closely observe the day-to-day activities of my family members. Be it in the backyard or be it from the balconies of their own rooms in the morning. I observed my parents and grandparents forcefully inhaling and exhaling air from their noses for a good 10-15 minutes daily.

Initially, thinking it to be some kind of a ritual or a religious belief, I did not pay much attention to this activity. But soon this breathing exercise became a part of the family discussion. My family members were being prescribed Pranayama (the breathing exercise) as a medication for many health issues they had. I could not resist any longer. I needed to see if these claims were actually based on scientific data or were they just a myth.

I dug into the logic of this exercise and attempted to understand the whole science behind breathing from the nose. Soon, I realized that breathing from the nose has many unknown advantages and why the process of breathing is not nearly as effective with the mouth.

So what exactly occurs when we breathe from our noses?

1) The inner lining of our noses moisten the air we breathe in and make it warm. This is extremely beneficial in the winter as well as is healthier.

[2) When we breathe out the air warms our breathing system for the next cycle. Therefore working as a humidifier for our bodies.

3) If we breathe air from the mouth it makes our mouth dry which produces oral acid. This acid can decay teeth, gums and cause oral cavities.

4) Nasal passage tissue prevents allergens, bacteria, and viruses from entering the lungs which can result in many respiratory issues.

5) It controls the flow of air we breathe and gives a better sense of smell

After going through numerous articles, I came to the conclusion that a mere focus on breathing does not qualify as pranayama. The focus on breathing from the nose, not only for a small period but, in our everyday life is true pranayama. Whether our elders doing it knowingly or unknowingly, what they are doing is scientifically proven to be beneficial by the scientist Jon.O.Lundberg.

Paranasal sinuses-the upper parts of the nose- produce

Nitric oxide (NO) with the help of the enzymes in the epithelial cell of paranasal sinuses.

The concentration of NO is as high as the amount which is equivalent to the permissible level of atmospheric air pollution.

Nitric oxide is a free radical as Nitrogen has 5 valent electrons and oxygen has 6 valent

electrons in the outer shell. The sharing of two covalent bonds leaves one free electron at nitrogen which makes it a highly reactive free radical.

A few of the important functions of this nitric oxide mixed with the air which we inhale are:

  1. a) It sterilizes the air which contains a plethora of bacterias and viruses
  2. b) It dilates the blood vessels which expand and therefore increases the volume of oxygen exchange

Nitric oxide is truly the “pran air” ( air of life ). So much so that now in hospitals when new

Borns are incubated, they are given controlled doses of nitric oxide with air. Now I finally realize why is it so important to breathe with the nose.

 Those who are not in the habit of breathing with the nose should cover their mouth with a mask like the Jain sadhus. This would cause the body to  make a shift from breathing from the  mouth to breathing from the nose as the latter will be more convenient for the body whilst also providing the body with true “prana Vayu.”

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