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Why breathing exercises are important for Long Covid

Updated: May 19, 2021

Effortless and free breathing is something that most of us take for granted and usually would not think much about, even less consider setting time aside to practice it. Which is understandable, as although breathing is of fundamental importance to our survival, most of the time it is an activity that is happening in the background of our awareness, while we are performing our everyday activities, such as sleeping, walking, talking, exercising, watching television and so on. During all of that, breathing is simply happening and we are blissfully unaware of it, doing what we are doing.

However, a respiratory illness such as COVID-19 can change everything. Depending on the severity of the disease, even after a person got past the acute state of the infection and is recovering, symptoms such as breathlessness can remain for weeks and months. Together with other symptoms, this condition has now been termed “long Covid”.

Apart from changes in the lungs themselves, there can also be accompanying changes in the breathing mechanics. Breathing in a healthy and balanced way would mean that during mundane and low effort activities, the belly would always move in and out slightly more than the chest. This natural order can be reversed during the COVID recovery period and the main breathing movement can be observed in the chest, rather than in the belly. “Chest-breathing” can be caused by anxiety and distress, but it often also leads to feeling more anxious and in distress.

Intentional breathing exercises are a way of interrupting such in-balanced ways of breathing in order to invite back again the ease and freedom of breathing naturally.

Some breathing exercises, such as the breath waves that are presented in this course, are not representing how we are supposed to breath, but are distinct exercises to gently bring attention to and train the entirety of our breathing structures. This exercise also includes relaxing imagery of a wave approaching and receding. The element of relaxation is important for almost everyone, but especially so for someone experiencing such a taxing disease as Covid-19, which not only affects the body, but very often has an ongoing effect on a person’s emotional state and outlook on life.

Connected to that we are also practicing breathing exercises in which we not only practice natural breathing, but also include a second activity such as humming on top of that, which serves several purposes, one of them to make natural breathing our default habit again, while learning to be able to focus on something else at the same time.

This is what we eventually want to achieve: That our body remembers how to breath with the most ease and without paying much attention to it. However, in many cases, this requires daily practice of interrupting unhealthy and inefficient ways of breathing with more natural and beneficial patterns. And this is exactly what the breathing exercises in this course intend to do.

To sign up to the six-part course featuring nine videos, two breathing audios to download and keep, as well as a growing library of resources, please visit Yoga for Long Covid Membership page.

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