The body has different channels (srotas) which conduct materials and nutrients throughout the body as well as carries waste materials out of the body. There are a total of 13 srotas in the human body. Of these 3 are Prana Vaha Srota, Udaka Srota, Annavaha Srota, 7 srotas are responsible for the 7 dhatus in the body, 3 dedicated srotas to carry waste materials out of the body. Pranvahasrota, which is responsible for carrying life bearing air inside the body, has a major role among the strotas.
Ayurvedic definition of respiration
Shvasan Kriya (respiration) is an activity which is defined as the combination of Nishvas (inhalation) and Ucchvas (exhalation) which carries prana vayu through the Pranvaha srota and is the key to maintain vital body functions. Problems in the pranvaha srota leads to respiratory disorders.
Functions of the PranavahaSrota
All 13 srotas in the body are named on the basis of their functions and the pranvaha srota is no exception. Ayurveda considers prana vayu (air we breathe) and ahara (food) as prana (life), hence the channels that are responsible for carrying nutrients and oxygen are known as the pranavaha srota.
The pranavahasrtota is the western equivalent of the respiratory system. This helps in the Shvasan (respiration), a process in which shuddavayu is inhaled into the body and ashuddhavayu is exhaled. Disorders of this srota can lead to different problems such as shortness of breath, experiencing pain when breathing, wheezing sounds, irregular breathing patterns or interrupted breathing.
Common Disorders of the Pranvaha Srota
Respiratory disorders occur when the Pranvaha srotas are blocked. These disorders cause discomfort in the sufferer. Some of the most common respiratory disorders that afflict us are:
- Asthma: Asthma is a chronic disorder in which the bronchial tubes become swollen and filled with mucus. It makes breathing difficult. Other symptoms include coughing, wheezing, tightness in the chest, trouble sleeping, weakness & fatigue, nasal congestion and pain in chest. Children below 5 years may develop asthma but with proper treatment the conditions can significantly improve. Asthma is not curable but proper treatment can control and manage the symptoms.
- COPD: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a collection of different respiratory disorders that causes breathlessness. Here, patients are unable to exhale or inhale normally and they wheeze when they breathe. Lack of energy and tightness in the chest are some other symptoms of COPD. Under certain circumstances, especially due to infections or environmental factors, symptoms may worsen suddenly and last for several days. This is called an exacerbation of COPD. Prevention is the best defence against COPD since it is also not completely curable.
- Bronchitis: Bronchial tubes in people who have bronchitis make more mucus as a natural defence against germs, which leaves less space in the tube to carry air. This results in breathlessness, shortness of breath, fatigue and cough up discoloured (yellowish-grey, grey) sputum. Causes of bronchitis are weak immunity, smoking, gastric reflux and exposure to irritants.
- Pneumonia: Pneumonia is also an infection of the lungs in which the aveoli (air sacs within the lungs) are filled with puss, which makes breathing difficult. Since this is a contagious disease, children as well as adults can become infected when they are in contact with the infected person.
How to keep the Pranvaha Srota Healthy?
All organs in the human respiratory system are important. Throughout the span of our life, we use these organs every day to breathe. Our respiratory system is under constant attack from disease causing pathogens, environmental pollutants, allergens, smoke and dust. Hence, it is vital to prioritize the respiratory health. Here are some useful tips:
- Avoid smoking and the company of smokers: Nicotine smoke is the biggest cause of respiratory problems today. Smoking causes chronic bronchitis, emphysema, chronic lung diseases and even lung cancer. Cigarettes and bidis cause extensive damage to the lung structure and reduces the lung’s capacity to extract oxygen from the air and supply it to the blood stream. Second-hand smoke is equally dangerous as smoking. For this, the company of smokers should be avoided especially when they are smoking.
- Yoga and Pranayama: Special breathing techniques such as Kapalbhaati and Bhastrika have significant benefits for patients suffering from asthma, bronchitis and lung congestion. Practising these will help to strengthen the lungs, improve immunity and provide relief from mental and physical stress. Daily practice of these yoga asanas can help you to keep the lungs strong and disease-free.
- Morning Walks: If you are unable to practise yoga, try to incorporate 20-30 minutes of morning walk in your daily schedule. Morning time is considered best for mild physical exercises such as walks and stretches. Choose a good location without pollution where you can walk and do simple stretching exercises.
- Keep your hands clean: Most contagious diseases are spread by touch. Touching infected surfaces or infected objects is the most common reason for contacting disease causing germs. Use a hand sanitizer to wash your hands before consuming food or after being outdoors or in a public place.
- Anti-oxidant rich foods: Seasonal fruits and vegetables are highly beneficial in enhancing the immunity and supplying the body with the essential nutrients. This can strengthen the body’s internal defence mechanism and prevent disease causing germs from entering the body.
How Panchakarma Helps?
Panchkarma procedures like Vaman, Virechan, Nasya, Basti are especially effective in treating respiratory disorders. Not just that, pre-emptive Panchakarma therapies can help prevent respiratory diseases in the first place. Ayurveda recommends Vasantic Vaman (Vaman in Vasant Ritu) to prepare the body against natural Kapha aggravation in spring.
Panchakarma therapies become very effective when combined with a personalized diet plan prepared according to the person’s Prakriti and specific lifestyle regimen that compliments the therapies. This is where unique wellness centres such as Jivagram come into the picture.