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Hissing breath (seetkari)

Yoga RX

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Shameem Akthar recommends breathing practices for arthritis relief

Arthritis can afflict any age group. Many people mistakenly think that the deterioration of joints and musculoskeletal pain it ushers is somehow triggered by ageing. On the contrary, many young people are prone to it. While arthritis can be lifestyle related, many cases may also have deep emotional triggers. This may explain why though the symptoms are many and well-known, the causes themselves can be elusive, flummoxing experts as to the choice of appropriate treatment to address it.

Yoga sees the roots of arthritis as emotional. To some extent, when highly sensitive people turn their helplessness and pain from emotional triggers back upon themselves, they experience flare-ups. This mirrors what happens within the body, when the auto-immune system turns back on itself, causing an inflammatory response in the body. Many victims of arthritis immediately identify this emotional trigger as an appropriate explanation for how they feel.

Indeed, much has been written about this mind-body link in arthritis. Seeing that we can never completely change our personality, how do we deal with this problem that attacks the body as well? A large part of yogic treatment advises regular, daily meditation to deal with most auto-immune flare-ups. Somewhere, the clarity that meditation provides helps us step back from the problem, enough to refuse it permission to cause sickness. Arthritis treatment also needs a lifestyle overhaul with expert intervention. For instance, staying away from excessive meat, especially at night, and foods that leave an acidic trace. A regular practice of yoga will also help cut down flare-ups by removing acid build-up in the blood. The practice does not need to be intense; it can even be gentle but it must be regular.

Pranayama like alternative nostril breathing (anulom vilom), cooling breath (seethali) and hissing breath (seetkari) are advised. These cooling breathing practices are believed to bring great relief and go far in cutting down inflammatory conditions.


Hissing breath (seetkari)

Sit in any meditative posture with your eyes shut. Roll the tongue around, as shown. Inhale from the mouth. Relax the mouth and tongue back to the original position. Then, exhale from the nose. This is one round. Do up to nine rounds.
Caution: Do not do if you have sensitive teeth. And never practise mouth-breathing pranayama outside in the open, because you will draw pollution directly into your lungs.
Benefits: This cools down inflammatory conditions and calms the mind.


Sleep of yoga (yoga nidra)

Lie down in the corpse pose (shavasana) with arms away from the body, feet apart and eyes shut. Stop all fidgeting. Focus on keeping the body still and relaxed by focusing on the breath. After a few minutes when the body’s restlessness has settled, take your mind over each body part in an orderly fashion, starting from the extremities (fingers/toes) and covering the limb, then the torso, neck, face and head. Do this steadily, without falling asleep or losing focus. This is ideally done after a yoga sadhana. At least five minutes is essential for it to have an impact. After you finish, you can stretch yourself, sit up and open your eyes. Benefits: Even a few minutes of this is more relaxing than several hours of sleep. As it is very healing, it is advised in all chronic sicknesses.

Shameem Akthar is a Mumbai-based yoga acharya. If you have any queries for her, mail us or email at (Please consult your physician before following the advice given here)

Photos: Haresh Patel
Featured in Harmony — Celebrate Age Magazine
June 2018