Is the COVID-19 pandemic taking a toll on your mental health? Is your anxiety-meter shooting up every day? Is staying indoors making you feeling flustered and low?

If yes, it’s time to choose ‘Pranayama’ to beat the COVID-19 lockdown stress. Dr. John Sharp, a certified psychiatrist and a faculty at the Harvard Medical School believes that pranayama (also called deep or controlled breathing) can help one cope with the Coronavirus anxiety.

Before we dive into some of the breathing techniques that one can do daily at home, let’s look at the advantages of doing pranayama:

1. Improves lung function and thus increases oxygen in the blood

2. Quickly balances the energy in the body

3. Makes you feel uplifted, motivated, positive and happier

4. Strengthens the immune system

5. Helps improve body posture and relieves body pain

Now, let’s look at the three simple breathing techniques that can be performed by people of all age groups. 

1. Sitali pranayama - It is also known as the Cooling Breath pranayama and is perfect for summers. It can be your go-to breathing exercise if you are feeling angry or agitated. Essentially, this exercise cools you down, provides a sense of relaxation and helps relieve anger.

How to do it:

Sit in a comfortable position, but make sure your spine is straight. Stick your tongue out slightly while forming a “U” shape. Inhale deeply through the opening of your tongue and exhale calmly through your nose. Repeat the process for at least 2 to 3 minutes. This can be practised both in the morning and in the evening.

2. Kapalbhati - One of the most popular types of pranayama wherein a person takes a long breath and then exhales, in short, intermittent bursts. Kapalbhati helps in improving blood circulation and relieving stress. It helps in flushing out the toxic air from the body and mind.

How to do it:

Relax your body and sit in a comfortable cross-legged position. Take a deep breath (first breath) and exhale actively in shorter intervals. The basic principle of this exercise is to inhale passively and exhale actively. You can begin with inhaling 1 deep breath and exhaling up to 20-30 breaths per minute and increase it as you get used to.

3. Alternate nostril breathing (Anulom Vilom) - Also known as Nadi Shodan, is another gentle, yet effective pranayama. Alternate nostril breathing is said to help improve focus, purify energy channels and reduce stress.

How to do it:

1. Sit in a comfortable position with your legs crossed

2. Rest your left hand, either on your lap or on the left knee

3. Lift your right hand up towards your nose

4. Close your right nostril gently with your right thumb Inhale through your left nostril, hold your breath and close the left nostril with your middle and ring fingers.  While doing so, lift your right thumb from the right nostril and exhale from the right nostril

5. After you exhale, pause for a brief second before you inhale from the opposite nostril (this time start the cycle from the left nostril)

6. Repeat this cycle 5 to 10 times while maintaining the same length for each inhalation and exhalation 

There are tons of similar pranayamas that one can do to keep stress and anxiety at bay. Start with spending 10-15 minutes every morning and notice the change in your mood and energy levels throughout the day. This will surely help you deal with the COVID-19 lockdown stress, boredom, and fatigue. One can continue doing pranayama even after the COVID-19 lockdown is lifted and make it a part of their daily routine to stay healthy, stay happy and stay positive.