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Respiratory Health

22 Aug 2013   Shanti Gowans
Breathe easy.
600 million times in your lifetime.

A Healthy Diet and Lifestyle

Your biology becomes your biography. We’re moving away from the idea that diseases are things, like bacteria that need to be treated with a drug (an antibiotic, for example). This was a wonderful paradigm for 20th century illness, but it’s not as satisfactory for chronic, lifestyle-driven, twenty-first century diseases as most of the chronic and medical conditions afflicting us today are lifestyle-linked. Therefore, prescribing drugs to treat atherosclerosis, arthritis, cancers, dementia, type 2 diabetes is ridiculous. You can’t medicate an unhealthy lifestyle. The ideal solution is to correct the lifestyle habits that are causing the problems in the first place.
Additionally, good (and bad) health is contagious. For most people, family, friends and acquaintances have a profound effect on their health – for better or worse. In other words, if everyone around you is eating poorly or smoking or living a sedentary life, it’s much harder for you to change your habits. Do you find this is true in your life? Is your social network pressuring you towards health, or towards illness?
Thus, you are advised to manage your:
  • Body health
  • Environmental health. Smoking is a personal choice (and may I suggest not a particularly good one) that poisons your microcosmic environment, while pollution exists at a macrocosmic level with the potential to affect all of us.
  • Genetic health, especially when a number of conditions depend on the gene-environment interaction, in which your genes load the gun, but it’s your environment that pulls the trigger.
  • Emotional health. Stress, along with life crises, may be precipitating, aggravating and at time causative factors towards many of our common diseases. It is vital for your health that the basic structure of your life changes under these circumstances.
  • Spiritual health. This is the most contentious aspect of the process of becoming healthy as it is not provable by modern scientific techniques and is in fact, based on thousands of years of Eastern medicine.
4,000 years of traditional medicine and modern science now prove that many diseases Western medicine fails to treat could be cured by Vedic healing from yoga and ayurveda. Millions and millions of men and women understand, live by and believe in the powerful, yet safe healing remedies of traditional Vedic Medicine, which offer relief for some of your worst pain and debilitating diseases without depending on prescription drugs. Just the simple breathing and stretching practices from yoga build super immunity, clear blockages, energise your whole body and improves blood flow.

In this day and age, everyone is searching for a quick fix to help lose weight, grow hair, prevent wrinkles, and live longer. Naturally, there’s no healthy quick fix to be found, but the wisdom of yoga and her sister discipline, Ayurveda shatter the myths about health and wellness and provides us with a method for living a long, healthy life. They provide plenty of down-to-earth advice on how to get healthy, stay healthy, and live a long life. It’s all appropriately affirmative and reassuring.
Guiding Principles

All health and disease considerations exist with reference to the context, background and environment in which a particular event or phenomenon occurs. Adverse climates are internal or external pathogenic agents of wind, heat, cold, dryness and dampness.

Sets of categories define patterns of distress within an organism.
  • Cold and Hot relate to the nature of a disease process.
  • A deficient or an excess indicate the strength of an organism relative to the virulence of the pathogenic process
  • Internal-and external refer to the location of the disease process relative to superficial and deep tissue and functions
  • Vata, Pitta, Kapha are the basic concepts that summarise the fundamental or composite nature of any disease process. They are the broad general categories that summarise the interaction of the above six, namely coldness and heat, a deficiency or an excess and internal or external location.
Coldness is a lack of body heat found locally or systemically, subjectively or objectively. It is characterised by an aversion to cold, a desire for heat, lassitude, desquamation, a lack of thirst, loose stool, pallor, lethargy, dullness, somnolence, weakness, profuse clear urine, thin odourless discharges. Dispelling coldness warms the body and stimulates circulation.

Dampness in the body is characterised by feelings of heaviness, swelling, a distension of the chest and abdomen, fluid accumulation, muscular mass, watery stools, sore joints, stupor, sticky discharges and phlegm (which is a by-product of dense, congealed dampness). It can cause obstructions, nodules, lumps or tumours. Dispelling phlegm helps expectoration and elimination of excessive mucous.

Heat is excessive body heat found locally or systemically, subjectively or objectively. It is characterised by aversion to heat, a desire for cold, hyperactivity, inflammation, dehydration, constipation, redness, restlessness, confusion, insomnia, aggressiveness, scanty dark urine, and thick malodorous discharges. Dispelling heat cools the body, reduces inflammation and neutralises inflammatory toxins.

Deficiency is a lack of basic constituents (vata, pitta and kapha) in the body. An organic hypofunction of any organ or physiological system, leads to excess.
- To alleviate this deficiency, it is necessary to tonify the digestive fire which will disperse any dampness in the body and further activate the digestion.
- It is also necessary to supplement the earth element in the body.

Excess refers to surplus in the body which leads to a congestion of basic constituents (vata, pitta and kapha), due to an accumulation of foods and fluids. It is the organic hyper function of any organ or physiological system caused by the stagnation of prana, tejas and ojas and its subsequent deficiency. The body needs decongesting. To decongest prana, we must promote peristalsis and eliminate any dampness in the body.
Internal refers to affecting the deeper levels of biological activity, the core of the body in the digestive tract.

Middle is occurring in the visceral organs or areas such as body cavities, bones, muscles, joints, glands, major blood vessels and nerves.
External is affecting or occurring in the superficial tissues or organs such as body hair, skin, subcutaneous tissue, peripheral blood vessels and nerves.
Wind is characterised by an aversion to drafts, sudden changes, spasms, disequilibrium, crying spells, migratory pain within the body, dizziness, trembling, itching, headache, stuffy nose, scratchy throat and numbness. Dispelling wind soothes the nerves, relaxes the muscles and promotes perspiration.

Respiratory Conditions


Asthma is characterised by wheezing or a difficulty in breathing when the bronchioles (branches of the lungs) become clogged with waste products, or constricted due to spasming, or swelling of the bronchials. Asthma may be triggered by an allergy to food, air pollution, cold air, heart weakness, previous lung damage, mental or physical fatigue, emotional disturbances, or an hormonal imbalance. In the case of a weak heart, the heart is not strong enough to push the blood through the lungs to be oxygenated, and the blood flows back into the lungs. In this case there will also be oedema and bruising as well. Rapid, coarse breathing, yellow sticky mucous, fever and a flushed face characterise a hot type of asthma. A cold type of asthma is characterised by white, clear or foamy mucous, cold extremities and a pallid complexion. In both cases, avoid mucous producing food, cold food, fruit, salads, all shellfish, dairy products, watermelons, bananas, mung beans, salty food, cold weather and especially ice cream.

Sore Throats

Laryngitis is inflammation of the larynx, often accompanying sore throat and hoarseness. A sore throat can be caused by various factors, including strain (screaming, yelling, singing etc), eating inappropriately spicy food, smoking, the common cold or the flu. There may also be mucous present, fever, or a chill, headaches and so on. Avoid alcohol, smoking, pollution, sleeping with your mouth open, stimulating or spicy food or fatty food.

The Common Cold
There are two basic types or stages of colds. The wind cold type occurs during a change in the weather or when you are exposed to the wind and cold coupled with weak immune functioning. Symptoms could include a chill, fever, no sweating, headaches, body ache, a stiff neck and clear, copious, nasal discharge. This is often the first stage of a cold. When the pathogens are at this initial, superficial stage, seek to sweat them out. A hot bath, dry sauna or a hot curry (using ginger, garlic, mustard greens and seeds, and chilli) could be beneficial to begin the sweating process, eating as little as possible so as not to burden the body with a lot of digestion. Avoid heavy proteins, fats, meats, vinegar or anything that closes the pores and ‘traps the thief in the house.’
The wind heat type of common cold is characterised by a high fever, some chills, sweating, sore throat, a cough, headache, body ache, and yellow, nasal discharge or sputum. Avoid shellfish, meat, vinegar and drafts. Drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest.

Chronic Bronchitis
Chronic Bronchitis is a common condition, often due to a lowered immune system that often occurs during winter and spring. Its main symptoms include coughing, mucous, shortness of breath and a feeling of fullness in the chest. Instead of being thrown out of the body, mucous gets lodged lower down in the bronchus and can get infected. Avoid overworking, getting chilled, stimulating and spicy foods, smoking, alcohol, caffeine and cold drinks.
Chronic Sinus Infection
This condition is due to an acute inflammation of the nasal passages over a long period of time. There is often drainage or congestion, difficulty in breathing through the nose, sometimes dryness in the nostrils, headaches and ringing in the ears. Avoid exposure to extremes of weather, coffee, smoking, stress, picking your nose, polluted air and smog.
Coughing is a natural action where air is inhaled and exhaled forcefully and audibly, to enable the body to expell phlegm, other obstructions or small amounts of liquid which could be carrying bacteria towards the delicate lung tissue. Coughing saves lives. Yet, most of us want to stop coughing often through the excess consumption of cough mixture.
When air is polluted, your body’s defence mechanisms in the respiratory tract produce more mucous in order to catch and trap harmful particles, before they penetrate deeper, with consequent repercussions. This explains smoker’s cough, where smoking elicits the formation of more mucous and coughing, so that your body can trap and throw out the harmful pollutants.
Coughing can also arise because of post-nasal secretions in the posterior pharynx and trachea. The cough centre is deep in the centre of your brain. It is also stimulated by psychological tension, fear and anxiety. Coughing is a reflex that can be a symptom of many diseases such as diseases of the lungs, heart, or throat as well as psychological disorders, or stand alone symptom. When this cough centre is damaged, bacteria-filled material may run down unhampered from the head and throat areas into the lungs. This is particularly true in the case of a sleeping individual whose cough reflexes are inactive.
Chemical sedatives which suppress your cough, ultimately prove injurious to your respiratory system, since bacteria and other microbes of various diseases (which should have been thrown out of your body through coughing) pass into your throat and chest, which can consequently become diseased.
When severe infection is present, destruction of the muscle necessary for contraction takes place and the war against injurious agents entering the air sacs of the lungs is lost, often necessitating surgical removal of all or a portion of a diseased lung.
The Flu
When it comes to the dreaded winter flu, most people do the exact opposite to what they should be doing to get over it, by suppressing the symptoms.
Here’s a common sense analogy about what the flu actually is, why your body creates it in the first place and how you can get back on track (without rushing off to the pharmacy for medicine).
A fireplace has a flue for smoke to rise up and escape through. It has this so that a house doesn’t fill up with smoke to the point where you couldn’t stay in it. The flue has a vent which can be opened and closed when needed. Your body has a flue which vents 24 hours a day. Sometimes it gets overwhelmed and opens up all the vents in the house (i.e. your body) for immediate clearing.
This venting is completely natural and is the cure or method of clearing out debris. Venting comes in many forms including colds and flus. What’s interesting is that this venting is venting of toxins and waste products. When we don’t support this venting process the ‘vents’ become clogged and blocked and leads to symptoms such as a sore throat. This is simply a sign or signal of an offensive still within the body.
The worst thing you can do when you have a cold or flu (venting) is take a pharmaceutical drug. These toxic chemicals do nothing but suppress your body’s natural venting process, so that it will take longer to fully recover and they will cause harmful, toxic residues to be left behind.
Yes, a sore throat, cold, bronchitis or the flu can make you feel lousy but during this time you need to support your body and help it ‘dump the rubbish’, not suppress it.
Herbal Remedies
The common thread is to eliminate cold, heat, wind and phlegm (persistent dampness and accumulation of cold) which are present in the body.
Popular home remedies exist for all of these. Four basic herbal properties are meant to be
- tonifying (having nutritive essence which augments)
- consolidating (to gather)
- dispersing (to distribute)
- purging (to eliminate)

From the Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine Cabinet


Chyawanprash has anti-oxidant properties & strengthens your body's internal defense mechanism, the immune system, thereby protecting you from everyday infections, cough, cold & stress etc.
At a time when flu and viruses are everywhere, your immunity system provides the best prevention from these deadly diseases. Chyawanprash, a time-tested, age-old formulation has a number of herbs like Amla, known to be one of the best antioxidants, Giloy (Guduchi) known to have immuno modulatory properties, and has more than 40 other natural ingredients, to boost immunity.
  • Derived from 2,500-year-old Ayurvedic formula
  • Totally chemical-free, natural and safe
  • Powerful combination of herbs and plant extracts in a base of Amla fruit pulp
  • Reinforces the immune system and helps fight disease
Tribhuvan Keerti - from the textbook: Yoga Ratnagar, is wonderful for fevers, body aches, heaviness in the head (due to the aggravation of kapha) and contains heavy duty herbs for respiratory disorders.
Sitopaladi Choorna - A pleasant tasting powder containing long pepper, cinnamon bark, bamboo manna and cardamom, acts as a restorative for the respiratory system.
Sookshma Trifala: Improves the immunity. Blood purifier, antiviral, antibacterial, anti inflammatory. Useful in tonsillitis, for fevers, including Ross River and Glandular fever.

My book entitled ‘
Breathe for Healthprovides more information. Additionally, it has a companion CD with guided instructions on mindful breathing practices.

Breathe easy. 600 million times in your lifetime.



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About Shantiji

Shanti Gowans is the globally recognised author and founder of Shanti Yoga™, Meditation and Ayurveda for the self, family and community.

Shantiji has brought the concepts and practices of a healthy body and a still mind to thousands of Australians through her Yoga and Meditation programs on national television... Read more about Shantiji's biography

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