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Respiratory disease is the leading global cause of disability and death.

Respiratory health: An Ayurvedic perspective

Respiratory disease affects one in five people and is the third largest cause of death in England. (1)

Hospital admissions for lung disease have risen over the past seven years at three times the rate of all admissions generally. (1)

Most hospital respiratory admissions are emergencies which double during the winter months. (1)

Understanding the respiratory system

We are not only the food we digest, we are also the air that we breathe. We can survive for days without food or water but can only survive a few minutes without air. (2)

Respiratory health: An Ayurvedic perspective

The process of respiration is often referred to as breathing, but it can also mean cellular respiration, the main reason why breathing is important. Cells require oxygen to extract energy from glucose through respiration, which produces carbon dioxide and water as a waste product. Oxygen is vital for every part of normal cellular function, and oxygen deficiency can have severe pathological consequences. (3)

The circulatory system is deeply connected with the respiratory system because it distributes the dissolved oxygen to the tissues of the body and the waste carbon dioxide to the lungs. (3)

Breathing isn’t just required for healthy respiration. In Ayurveda the vital life energy that empowers our existence is known as prana, the breath of life. (2) Prana is the subtle energy of the air dosha, vata that nourishes the whole body giving it vitality and energy. Without this energy we would die. Prana can also be obtained from food and water but it is more pervasive in the air we breathe. (11)

Breathe also connects us to the environment outside our body. Through breath we can detect changes in the atmosphere and tell if the air is fresh. (b) The body may lose function of organs or organs may operate at a reduced capacity yet still the body can survive. The body cannot survive without prana. (15)

Ayurveda understands that prana explains the connection between energy, mind and body. This is the missing link in modern western medicine since prana cannot be observed physically. (15)

The connection between breath and the mind is demonstrated in how breathing can change depending on emotions. When stressed our breathing becomes shallow and we can experience shortness of breath, with relief often comes a deep sigh and when relaxed our breathing is easy. (15) Unobstructed breathing is necessary for the nervous system to relax, to create a clear mind and to feel energised. The use of breath is central to many spiritual practices such as yoga, meditation and traditional movements like T’ai chi and Qi Gong. (2)        

Many herbs are suitable for self-care. However if a health condition does not resolve with home remedies we recommend using the information in Herbal Reality along with your health advisors, especially herbal practitioners from the professional associations listed in our Resources page (‘If you want to find a herbalist”). When buying any herbal products, you should choose responsible manufacturers with independently assured quality standards and sustainability practices. Check the label carefully for the appropriate safety and sustainability information.

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