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Introduction to Nasal Congestion
INTRODUCTION TO NASAL CONGESTION
Did you know that we breathe through one nostril at a time? Notice which nostril you are breathing through now. Can you switch nostrils by thinking about it? We naturally tend to switch nostrils about every hour to 90 minutes or so, but many of us have a tendency to favor one nostril over the other, so tune in and figure out if one nostril is more dominant for you.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine the right Yang, while the left is Yin. If you tend to breathe mostly through the right nostril you may tend to be quick tempered, nervous and irritable, and you may be quite driven. If you tend to breathe mostly through the left nostril, you may feel lethargic and lazy, and have very little ambition. Someone who breathes equally through both nostrils will be balanced, confident yet calm, but full of energy.
Dr. I.N. Riga has found that patients, whose breath flowed predominantly from the left nostril, suffered a higher incidence of respiratory disorders than the average. This included chronic muco-purulent sinusitis, ear infections, recurrent laryngitis and tonsillitis, chronic bronchitis and related disorders. He also found that these people were more likely to suffer from various assorted disorders such as headaches, amnesia, hyperthyroidism, chronic gastritis, diminishing libido and much more.
On the other hand, those whose breathing was predominantly from the right nostril were found to be inclined towards arterial hypertension and its numerous consequences.
Knowing how to equalize your nostrils can be helpful to synchronize the brain and balance the emotions. So the next time you are feeling anxious, breathe through your left nostril for a while. Doing two complete cycles of alternate nostril breathing four times a day can help bring you to a place of balanced breathing.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?
The first step in Kundalini Awakening is balancing the flow of energy in Ida (Yin, Moon) and Pingala (Yang, Sun). This means that equal amounts of Prana or Chi are flowing in the left and right sides nostril. It is most readily evidenced by the breath flowing evenly in the two nostrils.
In our common language, we speak of feeling off-balance or getting balanced. We speak of wanting to be centered. To balance or center the energies is the goal of this step of the Kundalini Awakening process. This affects not only the subtle body, but is also experienced in the gross, physical body, and brings tremendous health benefits by positively regulating the autonomic nervous system.
There is a natural transition between Ida and Pingala from time to time during the day. For those with very healthy bodies and minds, this shift happens approximately every 90 minutes. For others, the shift may not follow so naturally, or energy may be more or less stuck in either Ida or Pingala for much longer periods of time during the 24 hours of the day.
In these moments of natural transition, the mind is calm, centered, or balanced. There is a sense of inner peace, as if the mind wants to do nothing but be in meditation. For most of us, unaware of this transition, we force ourselves to stay with the matters at hand in the external world during these moments, possibly thinking we are just sleepy. Once you are aware of this natural shifting, it can provide a time to take just a minute for yourself to enjoy the inner stillness. It is as if nature is giving us a free meditation from time to time.
At one's regularly scheduled time for Yoga Meditation, the aspirant wants to be able to balance these two energies by direct control. Breath balancing practices are done so as to balance Ida and Pingala, allowing them to flow evenly. These practices are extremely useful and build a foundation for Kundalini Awakening.
The ability to regulate this balance of breath by focusing the mind on the flow in the nostrils, though a simple practice, is one of the most profound parts of the inner journey. Notice with your mind which nostril is flowing more, and which is flowing less freely. By focusing attention on the closed or less open nostril, it will gradually open, and bring an increased feeling of calm. This may take some months to accomplish, or it may come sooner, but the skill will definitely come with practice.
The breath naturally makes two sounds, Sooooooo with inhalation, and Hummmmmm with exhalation. Conscious use of these sounds are a tremendous aid in balancing Ida and Pingala.
The entire purpose of Pranayama Yoga is the balancing of these energies of Ida and Pingala. The sun is the active energy of Pingala, whereas moon is the passive energy of Ida. The union of these two energies is called Yoga, which means union or wholeness.
Balancing Ida and Pingala also balances the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches of the autonomic nervous system, reducing the elevated flight or fight response. The single act of balancing the breath is a tremendous aid in physical stress reduction, in addition to being a spiritual practice setting the stage for Kundalini Awakening.
Although the days of most people are busy, it is useful to know about the difference between Ida and Pingala dominance in relation to activities. When the right nostril is open, when Pingala is dominant, this a better time to do more active projects. When the left nostril is open, when Ida is predominant, this is a better time to do more quiet projects.
Ideally, solid foods are taken when Pingala is more active, when the right nostril is open; this aids in digestion. Since this is more dominant in midday, that is usually the best time to take the major meal of the day. Ideally, liquids are taken when Ida is more predominant, when the left nostril is open. It is important to be flexible about principles such as these, so that they do not become obstacles or irritating rules.
UNBLOCKING THE NOSTRILS FOR A BALANCED BREATH
There area some options and tools to use:
- Drinking plenty of fluids, more than usual, aids the body in expelling the irritant and clearing congestion. Water, fruit juice, and teas are recommended by medical experts to resolve congestion, and rest and sleep are also suggested remedies in a case of nasal congestion. Carbonated beverages also can help to alleviate nasal congestion. Increasing air moisture with a humidifier or a steamy bath or shower usually helps relieve the congestion and accompanying discomfort.
- The ancient use of nasal irrigation, which originated from the Yoga practice of Neti, is also said to help reduce nasal congestions. It involves rinsing the nasal cavity regularly with your own urine.
While this study is more suggestive than conclusive, yoga theory believes that balanced breathing is responsible for the balance of the autonomous nervous system. It is necessary for balancing the excitatory sympathetic nervous system and the relaxatory parasympathetic nervous system.
This is necessary for the maintenance of optimum physical, emotional and mental health.
It is believed that inhalation through each nostril stimulates specific nerve centers lying within the mucus membranes. These specific stimuli influence the autonomic processes of respiration, circulation, digestion and so on.
All regular Neti doers invariably experience an amazing lightness in the head and a better feel by doing Neti regularly. Some even report an improvement in seemingly unrelated symptoms such as constipation, which bears out the above theory of balanced breathing.
Another way you can change a blocked nose is by changing your breathing and trap a little more carbon dioxide in. An easy way to do this is:
- Take a normal, unforced breath in.
- Let a little bit of air out so you are not full.
- Then pinch your nose closed, and hold your breath. (Mouth closed).
- Hold for about 5 seconds after your first desire to take a breath. Do not hold as long as you can, as this will make control of your breathing more difficult.
- When you release your nose and start breathing again, breathe as little as possible. Keep very still. This will keep the carbon dioxide you have trapped in, so that it can open your nose.
Holding the breath traps additional carbon dioxide which has been produced from the physical activity involved in moving the muscles. It is quite common for the nose to become blocked again shortly after doing this exercise. This is because the underlying breathing has not been changed and the body has not become accustomed to the increased carbon dioxide level. However, after some time, and with regular practice of breathing exercises, the body will adapt to a higher level of carbon dioxide and the nose will remain unblocked.
If you are not sure if your nose is clearer, simply repeat this simple exercise a few times with about 15 seconds between each breath hold.
The tool Yoga Danda or Yoga staff is an ancient device, which when supported under the armpits, alter the flow of breath. The Yoga Danda is a T-shaped wooden staff of about 2 feet in height. The horizontal member is bent in the shape of a "U" with a smooth broad edge to provide a comfortable support to the armpit. By using it appropriately, the flow in the nostrils can be regulated.
The Yoga Danda is often used prior to Pranayama or Meditation, but can be used at other times to alter the predominant flow of breath. Generally is used to create a balance between Ida (mental energy) and Pingala (physical energy), allowing Sushumna (spiritual energy) to flow.
Opening Ida/Pingala Posture
If you managed to make a change in how blocked your nose is, or even cleared it completely, then you have just been more successful than years of drugs or surgery can be.
The nose is a bony tunnel in the middle of one's face. Air passes in and out of this tunnel. The back of the tunnel connects with the top of the throat. The tunnel is divided in half by the nasal septum bone and cartilage. Protruding down into each nasal passage are three small mucosal covered bones called turbinates. They increase the filtering, warming surface of each nasal cavity.
Residing to the side of the nose, underneath your eyes and up into your forehead are large air pockets in the facial bones called sinuses or more correctly paranasal sinuses. These connect with the nasal cavity. They are named the maxillary, ethmoid, frontal and sphenoid sinuses. The nose and the paranasal sinuses are lined with tissue which is called mucosa. The mucosa has little hairs called cilia and floating over these hairs is a layer of fluid. On top of the fluid layer floats a layer of mucus. The cilia beat back and forth in the fluid layer and they move or propel the mucus blanket along, out of your sinuses into your nose. The mucus blanket is then transported to the back of your throat. Under normal circumstances the mucus is swallowed.
In a normal functioning nose a quart or more of fluid is generated daily, carried to the back of the nose and swallowed. This whole system is called the mucociliary transport system and it is the key to nasal health. Particulate materials such as dust or bacteria become trapped in the mucus blanket and the cilia carry these to the back of your nose where they are swallowed and killed or digested when they reach your stomach. If the mucociliary system becomes impaired, then nasal and sinus secretions stagnate. They become infected by the bacteria which are always present within your nose and infection develops, be it in your nose or your sinuses.
The smell receptors, or olfactory receptors as they are properly called, reside in the very uppermost portions of your nose. The nose must be reasonably open for odors to be carried to the roof. Here the odors are perceived and if the system is intact and functioning, you are able to smell roses, food and all the other smells of life.
ANTERIOR ARM ANATOMY
The Median and Ulnar nerves have no branches in the arm and are in transit to the forearm. The Median nerve, which is originally on the lateral side of the brachial artery, crosses anterior to—occasionally behind—that vessel and then descends on its medial aspect. In the cubital fossa, it lies deep to the median cubital vein and the bicipital aponeurosis and gives a branch to the elbow joint. It enters the forearm between the heads of the pronator teres. The Ulnar nerve, originally medial to the Brachial artery, proceeds posteriorward to the posterior aspect of the medial epicondyle. It enters the forearm between the heads of the flexor carpi ulnaris and under a tendonous arch formed between these heads called the cubital tunnel.
At the inferior border of the teres major, i.e., the distal limit of the posterior axillary fold, the axillary becomes the Brachial artery. The Brachial artery lies superficially on the medial side of the arm, at first medial to the humerus and then anterior to the bone. Hence the artery can be compressed against the humerus. The pulsation of the artery can be palpated where it is partly overlapped by the biceps and coracobrachialis. This vessel is used in sphygmomanometry—instrument for measuring blood pressure in the arteries, especially one consisting of a pressure gauge and a rubber cuff that wraps around the upper arm and inflates to constrict the arteries.
The Brachial artery lies successively on the triceps and brachialis and is crossed—usually anteriorly—by the Median nerve. At the elbow the artery lies in the middle of the cubital fossa, between the biceps tendon laterally and the median nerve medially. It is crossed by the bicipital aponeurosis, which separates it from the median cubital vein. Opposite the neck of the radius, it divides into the radial and Ulnar arteries, but variations, including high division—in the upper third of the arm—are common.
There is a relationship between the Anterior Arm and the Nostrils. How is this interconnected is not to clear, but Yogis have known of this relationship for thousands of years. This is proven in the case of the efficiency of the Yoga Danda and the Opening Ida/Pingala Posture.
At about 2/3 up from the elbow, there is a point where the Brachial veins, Brachial artery, and the Ulnar and Median nerves come together. This point of congruency has a key relationship to the function of the Nasal activity.
Important Note, alternative
Miguel discovered this Opening Ida/Pingala Posture during his practice and by studying the millenary Yogis of India. Not having a Yoga Danda available prompted him to find an alternative solution which he has mastered and taught internationally since 1972.
The application of this posture/technique is available during Miguel's Integrative Chi Kung, Integrative Kundalini Yoga and Integrative Advanced Meditation classes and workshops. Please review the Ongoing Events or contact Miguel Sarria-Daly for classes and training information.