Breathing exercises for seniors that help in increasing lung capacity and makes them stronger
The capacity to recruit alveoli reduces in an elderly person due to reducing residual volume.
Breath is a vehicle which carries one of the most important components of our life force known as “Prana”. After the age of 35, there are gradual changes in lung volumes and pulmonary functions. This is due to the gravity posed changes in spine and chest wall which brings about decrease in chest wall compliance. The capacity to recruit alveoli reduces in an elderly person due to reducing residual volume. This residual volume of air is one of the reasons the air sacs remain potent and available for gas exchange.
There are a few techniques one can follow to maintain a good chest wall compliance and improve the lung volume by breathing effectively.
Techniques to improve breathing:
a. Sit comfortably with your back straight and observe your inhalation and exhalation. Start observing the transition between inhalation and exhalation and vice versa over five breaths.
b. Now count the inhalation and exhalation within your normal range of breath. Normal physiological breath has exhalation longer than inhalation over five breaths.
c. First exhale through both nostrils. Close the right nostril, inhale through the left nostril then close the left nostril, breathe out through partially opened right nostril. Repeat this five times.
d. Then take five breaths – inhale and exhale through both nostrils.
e. Exhale through both nostrils. Close the left nostril and inhale through the right nostril, then close the right nostril, exhale through the partially opened left nostril. Repeat this five times.
f. Then take five breaths – inhale and exhale through both nostrils.
g. Exhale through both nostrils. To start with, close the right nostril and inhale from the left nostril and then close the left nostril, exhale through the partially opened right nostril, then keeping the left nostril closed, inhale through the right nostril and close the right nostril and exhale through the partially opened left nostril. This is one cycle. Repeat five cycles.
h. Then take five breaths - inhale and exhale through both nostrils. This time try and count the inhalation and exhalation. With regular practice of this breathing technique, breathing becomes efficient and exhalation becomes longer than inhalation.
These exercises can be done at least twice a day, preferably as one wakes up in the morning and before retiring to bed at night. If possible, one can practice more than two times. It is important to keep a gap of two hours after a meal and an hour after a snack or beverage before these exercises.
In yogic breathing techniques, exhalation is focussed and practiced consciously so that good inhalation happens automatically. By focussing on exhalation based breathing exercises, we can improve the overall lung capacity. Efficient breathing improves the lung capacity and good lung capacity brings better oxygenation to tissues thereby maintaining their vitality.
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