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The health cafe' concept is one where we discuss complicated health issues of a very serious nature in a very light and understandable language. The medical jargon often used by doctors do sound like Greek and Latin to many of us. Hear at the health cafe' it is our effort to detail, discuss and focus on these health issues in a very simple language and light cafe like atmosphere. The focus it to create an interactive platform where people at large could get authentic health related information at the click of a mouse from the true experts in the field. Hope you all enjoy reading the health cafe' and you are welcome to respond with your views and queries to our team who are every ready to help you out with your health care needs. THE HEALTH CAFE TEAM

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mobile mania To Be or not to Be?

Article by Reba Paul 
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The jury’s still out on whether mobile phones are dangerous to the human body. Firmly in the clutches of today’s mobile phone culture, we are at a point where we need to understand it better, and figure out how to use it in a way that minimizes possible harm.

It’s hardly been here two decades and we already can’t imagine life without it! Many people are mulling over whether they should continue using it extensively or curb usage. Needless to say, the question of doing away with the cell phone altogether will never arise. We have already crossed that point – they have become gadgets that most of us cannot do without – even though we’ve been hearing that radiation is bad for us. So all that’s left to be done is figure out how we can use it with least damage to ourselves.

Technically speaking, the ‘real’ killing that mobile phone use is responsible for, has mostly happened on the road – with drivers using the phone while driving, causing fatalities. Statistics say that drivers on the phone are four times more likely to crash their vehicles. Many countries have made it illegal to use mobile phones while driving – and killing someone else or yourself because you were using the phone on the road, is the greatest health hazard that this instrument poses.

Unfortunately, many suspect that this is not the only risk that this small handy instrument places upon the human race. Ever since the mobile phone has been in use, people have been voicing their concerns about the dangers that its electromagnetic radiation could bring. Of course, it would take us close scrutiny of a whole generation to really know the benefits and harm of any new thing. So we stand at a very interesting juncture – it could be terrible for us, but we love it too much, and it’s much too early to really tell. All we can do now is to take stock of what early studies are showing, and use our own guidance system to decide how we want to approach the issue individually.

We would like to believe that science has all the answers. Unfortunately, since the very foundation of science is that it pursues answers, most often it raises as many questions as the answers it provides. This is an inevitable part of the process of getting to the bottom of any truth.

Most of the larger studies about the harms of mobile phone radiation state that they have been unable to find a link between cell phone radiation and cancer. Interestingly, many of the studies have connections with phone companies themselves, so the skepticism regarding the findings is understandable. Many other smaller studies have been consistently showing that radiation seems to have harmful effects on life on the cellular level. This may be why major studies done on groups of adults using cell phones did not throw up any conclusive evidence. When damage is done in minor quantities on the cellular level, it takes a lot more time to cumulatively show up in the body. Most of the studies use words like ‘there are implications’ – which means that a link between DNA degeneration and radiation is suspected, but they are unable to state this conclusively. Here are some study findings:

•…. In 1995, in the journal Bioelectromagnetics, Henry Lai and Narenda P. Singh reported damaged DNA after two hours of microwave radiation at levels considered safe according to government standards.
•…. In December 2004, a study done across Europe called REFLEX, covered evidence from 12 collaborating laboratories. They found compelling evidence that there was DNA damage in cells in in-vitro cultures. These were exposed to 0.3 – 2 watts/kg. There were also indications of chromosome damage, changes in some genes and a higher rate of cell division.
•…. In Athens, a team studied the effects of radiation on fruit flies – and saw a reduction in the reproductive capacity of these little creatures when they were exposed to six minutes of 900 MHz for a period of five days.
•…. Studies suggest that rats exposed to microwaves similar to mobile phone radiation displayed breaks in their DNA. Mice exposed to radiation for eighteen months developed brain tumors.
•…. A study conducted at the University of Montpellier in France exposed 6000 chick embryos to radiation. They found that the heavily exposed chick eggs were five times less likely to survive than the control group. This raises questions about possible effects that excessive radiation could have on fetuses.
•…. In 2009, Australian research subjected in vitro samples of human sperm to radio-frequency radiation. They saw that sperm that were put under a higher absorption rate had a decrease in motility and vitality, had an increase in oxidative stress, and increased DNA fragmentation.
Studies also indicate that radiation interferes with the chemicals in the human body – inhibiting the production of melatonin, which in turn inhibits estrogen production, and could cause cancer. Most of these studies are yet to be ‘peer-reviewed’ but they have all been done by smaller, independent teams. Your own research will help you draw conclusions about their validity and honesty. These are all early indications that it may be harmful to overuse or over expose yourself to cell phone radiation.
Interestingly, the WHO has classified mobile phone radiation as being ‘possibly carcinogenic’ – saying that there could be ‘some risk’ and strongly advises additional research into the long-term dangers this could bring. So, we stand at a point where we have no hard evidence that cell phones cause cancer or other disease, but are increasingly getting evidence that they could. What’s most unnerving is that the radiation that could cause such harm is invisible – entering and leaving our bodies without us even knowing about it.
It’s not just our bodies that are impacted by the radiation changes through the handsets and the telecommunications towers. Scientists say that the towers could be responsible for disrupting the internal navigation systems of insects like bees. Over a period of time, this could cause a disruption in our food chain and the agriculture industry, since bees are responsible for a lot of pollination of crops.
Advocacy groups and concerned scientists and doctors have initiated many movements in the USA and Europe that urge lawmakers to reconsider how and where cell phone towers are located, and to revise policies about keeping schools, retirement homes and healthcare institutions free from this kind of radiation.
Until there is more conclusive evidence, it may be wise to adopt a ‘better safe than sorry’ policy on the almighty cell phone – especially in the case of children. Their smaller heads, thinner skulls and higher tissue conductivity, make them prone to absorbing more energy from a cell phone. There are some products on the market that say they can reduce the impact of mobile phone radiation. You could check these out and investigate the usefulness of these for yourself. If you feel that there is enough evidence to be wary of cell phone radiation, you can start changing things by limiting your phone usage starting today.

Help! I’m addicted to my Phone!

Here are some tips that decrease your radiation exposure:
• Limit the use of cell phones- keep calls short.
• Text instead of talking whenever you can.
• Wear an air tube headset (not regular wired headset). The regular wired headset has been found to intensify radiation into the ear canal – serving as an antenna, attracting electromagnetic frequencies from the surroundings.
• Do not put the cell phone in a pocket or a belt while in use or while it is on. The body tissue in the lower body area has good conductivity and absorbs radiation more quickly than the head. One study shows that men who wear cell phones near their groin could have their sperm count dropping by as much as 30%.
• After dialling, wait for the call to connect before placing the phone next to the ear.
• Do not use the cell phone in enclosed metal spaces such as vehicles or elevators, where devices may use more power to establish connection.
• Do not make a call when the signal strength is weak (1 bar or less), because stronger radiation is emitted by the phone.
• Purchase a phone with a low SAR. Most phones have a SAR level listed in its instruction manual. The SAR level is a way of measuring the quantity of RF energy that is absorbed by the body.
• Be a little old fashioned – use landlines.
• Keep cell phone off most of the time. Ask people to leave messages and then call them back from a landline.

Safety First!

1. A small chip-like cell phone microwave radiation protection device is available, which absorbs electromagnetic energy waves from your mobile phone, protecting the body from these emissions.
2.  Use your cell phone for emergencies, not long rambling conversations
3. DO NOT allow your children to use or play with mobile phones. Their bones are less dense than ours so they can be affected by radiation faster than an adult. Make it a rule that children use a cell phone only during emergencies.
4. Do not use your cell phone when you drive. This has been the cause of many fatal road accidents. If you absolutely HAVE to, use a hands free mobile car kit, so you can keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times.
5. Do not use the cell phone when you drive – for another reason than the previous –  when you are moving, your phone is constantly trying to get the best signal – which means that radiation is intensified!
6. Some companies have developed materials and gadgets that act as radiation shields, so check these out and if you are convinced, then use them.
7. Keep your phone out of the bedroom at night. This is the time when your pineal gland and other chemical processes are working to heal and rejuvenate your body. The worst thing you could do is place EM radiation at close quarters to your body at this time.

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The Health Cafe' - Team

The Heart that Isn’t

Cardiology could be on the verge of a revolutionary breakthrough – a mechanical device that works as well as a human heart is just around the corner! But would that make the recipient a semi-robot…?

For most people, the mention of ‘heart’ brings to mind the symbol of love – the famed and much loved cherry red symbol that bombards you on Valentine’s Day. This symbol of the heart is reportedly a representation of a 6th century B.C. aphrodisiac found in Africa.

In real life, the heart looks quite a bit different from its symbolic representation. Weighing in at about 5 ounces, the human heart beats roughly once per second – that’s roughly 2.5 billion times in a life time. On an average, it pumps 74 liters of blood every hour through the adult body.

Working constantly from the minute we take human form, with many additional stresses loaded onto it during our adult life, it’s no wonder the heart is usually the first of our organs to give out. Since human beings are not very good at changing their lifestyle to sustain healthy bodies or healthy hearts – doctors have been trying for more than four decades to develop an artificial device that can take over the pumping function of the heart. The search has been to develop a machine that does not wear out, break down or cause clots and infections.

The Artificial Heart

An artificial heart is a mechanical device that replaces the heart. Artificial hearts are typically used as a temporary device that works in your body till a real heart transplant is possible; or to permanently replace the heart in case transplantation is impossible. The first artificial heart was the Jarvik-7, designed by Robert Jarvik.

The first time an artificial heart was successfully transplanted into a human was in 1969 in Houston. This was to act as a bridge for a transplant.  The patient died later due to complications of an unrelated acute pulmonary infection following the heart transplant. In 2004, the FDA in the USA approved the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart. Originally designed as a permanent replacement heart, it is currently approved as a bridge to human heart transplant. There have been more than 900 implants of the Total Artificial Heart, accounting for more than 210 patient years of life on this device.

Another device – the AbioCor has also been recently approved for use in severe biventricular end-stage heart disease patients, who are not eligible for heart transplant and have no other viable treatment options. As of April 2011, 14 patients had been implanted with the AbioCor, with one patient living for 512 days with the AbioCor. This device is fully implantable, meaning that there are no wires or tubes penetrating the skin, which mean there are less chances of infection.

Heart with No Beat Offers New Lease on Life

Of late, radical advances are being made, with Dr. Billy Cohn and Dr. Bud Frazier of the Texas Heart Institute announcing that they have developed a machine that can function as a heart. The device is a set of simple whirling rotors — which means people may soon get a heart that has no beat!
Inside the Institute’s animal research laboratory is an 8-month-old calf with a soft brown coat named Abigail. Cohn and Frazier removed Abigail’s heart and replaced it with two centrifugal pumps.”If you listen to her chest with a stethoscope, you wouldn’t hear a heartbeat,” says Cohn. “If you examined her arteries, there’s no pulse. If you hooked her up to an EKG, she’d be flat-lined.” But she is a fully active, healthy calf!

They took two medical implants known as’ ventricular assist devices’ and hooked them together. A ventricular assist device has a screw-like rotor of blades, which pushes the blood forward in a continuous flow. The doctors say the continuous-flow pump should last longer than other artificial hearts and cause fewer problems. That’s because each side has just one moving part: the constantly whirling rotor.

In Queensland’s University of Technology, a new counter-flow heart pump is being developed which is based on a double-output centrifugal model – it pushes the blood in such a way that correct flow happens through both sides of the heart. This means that the left and right sides of the heart are supported at the same time – much like a real heart! Lead researcher Associate Professor Andy Tan says “what’s so groundbreaking is that it is the first device to combine the function of two pumps into one unit.”

Finding a technology that can serve as a replacement heart is crucial – especially because the number of people suffering from heart failure is increasing and the numbers of heart donors are not rising. So the only way to reduce the number of deaths is to find another solution.

The stages of final design and patenting are yet to be negotiated before these devices reach the chest cavities of heart patients. The world will be watching to see how effective these devices are as a solution to replacing the human heart. And even if it does, will this mean that the person having it will be semi-robot? Will they lose out on feelings and emotions? All that remains to be seen, but we can be sure of one thing. If it does work, many artificial heart recipients will be thanking their surgeons, ‘from the bottom of their hearts’!

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Check for microalbuminuria

Your pee can give you clues about your risk for heart or kidney disease.

Breakthroughs in the technology of medical testing offer a new and incredibly effective new way of catching heart disease in the bud. Testing for microalbuminurea in your urine can now predict how prone you are to heart disease!

When an individual’s urine has small but abnormal amounts of protein, this is referred to as microalbuminurea. This is measured at a time when the amounts are so small that they do not show up in the conventional dipstick method. (30-300mg of albumin excretion by the kidneys over a period of 24 hours.)

The dipstick method of measuring albumin in the urine, only detects protein excretion that exceeds 300 mg per 24 hours. This is the standard range that is currently denoted as macroalbuminuria, or gross proteinuria(high levels of protein in the urine). With new testing, even smaller levels of protein in urine can be spotted, which means that conditions like kidney and cardiac disease can be spotted at a very early stage and steps can be taken that may even be able to reverse the condition!

‘Albumin’ is the most common protein found in blood. In people with normal blood levels, the kidneys will not allow albumin to be excreted. So when there is albumin in the urine, it’s a sign that something may be wrong. Microalbumin in the urine is an early indicator of kidney disease. Microalbuminuria is almost unheard of in childhood and before adolescence. Factors that contribute to the incidence of microalbuminuria are: duration of diabetes, high blood pressure, genetic susceptibility.

Microalbuminuria is most commonly associated with diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease setting in as a result of diabetes), but there are other causes, which include glomerulonephritis, amyloidosis and other forms of kidney disease. Detecting microalbuminuria early is important because it is often a sign that the patient may be at risk of developing overt proteinuria (macroalbuminuria) and renal failure. It is also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Nephrologists and diabetologists have been measuring microalbuminuria in their patients to check for the development and progression of kidney disease. But urine is also being increasingly recognized as a sensitive predictor for cardiovascular risk. Studies show a clear relationship between microalbuminuria and cardiovascular events. If this is identified early, medication can be used to work against the condition and have a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system.

At present the incidence of type 2 diabetes is increasing world-wide, with half the population unaware that they are diabetic. The result is an increase in deaths that are caused by end-stage renal disease and cardiovascular disease. Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a silent killer, bringing with it many life-threatening complications on different organs like the kidney and heart. So there is a need for early identification of patients who are at greatest risk. By spotting the risk early, patients can start on renal and cardiovascular protective treatments early and have better quality of life.

As with every test, microalbuminuria too has the drawback of having false positive results. False positive reports happen when the patient has done strenuous exercise or has urinary tract infection, or severe hypertension, or some prolonged illness. But the chances of false positive in microalbuminuria are minimal. The best part of this new finding is that now, we can spot the onset of two potentially lethal conditions right when they start, and that too with something as simple as a urine test!


Breath. It’s the first thing we take when we come into this world. It’s the one thing we continue to take constantly throughout our life – without even noticing it. Human beings can live without food and water for several days, but will die if deprived of air for more than a few minutes.

The breath is the all-important element in sustaining life. Our breath cleanses our bodies, brings balance to our chemical processes – regulates our hormones and can help us recover from a multitude of illnesses. Every breath that we take in, brings in cleansing oxygen to our bodies and every exhalation throws out carbon dioxide and a host of toxins. Almost 70% of toxins leave our bodies through our breath. Small wonder then, that ancient Indian knowledge focused on ways to control and sustain this vital force in our bodies in the best way possible. The Indian systems of Yoga and Ayurveda have constantly recommended breathing exercises for good health and longevity. Referred to as ‘Pranayama’, – there are several types of these breathing exercises that Yoga masters have formulated.

‘Pranayama’ means ‘extension/control of the Life Force’ (Prana – Life force; Ayama – to draw out, extend or control). The Yoga Sutras say that pranayama is a way to attain higher states of awareness. By doing pranayama, one achieves a balance in the upward and downward flowing energy in the human body – which brings a balance of good health to the mind as well as body. Generally our inward and outward breath flows through our bodies involuntarily – it’s something we do thoughtlessly. The tradition of Yoga says that when this activity is done with more awareness and various techniques of control, then our vital life force can be made more balanced.

Studies have shown that the way we breathe contributes to our bodily functions. We are told to take long deep breaths when we are disturbed or anxious. Deep breaths calm us down when we are angry. Our breath is directly connected with influencing our mental states. Pranayama exercises have been designed with one intention in mind – to inspire, infuse, control, regulate and balance the ‘prana’ (vital life force) that keeps our bodies alive. It is the one exercise that can improve all life processes.

There are about seventy types of pranayamas mentioned in traditional texts. The tradition of Hatha Yoga focuses on eight types of Pranayama – Kapalbhati, Agnisar, Bhastrika, Ujjayee, Bhramari, Nadi Shodhana (Anuloma-Viloma), Sheetali, Sheetakari and Surya Bhedan. If you have been to a yoga class, it is very likely that you have done two of these – Kapalbhati and Nadi Shodhana.  This is probably because these two done in tandem, can bring about the best healing results with regards to chronic diseases.
Article by Reba Paul @ The Health cafe " Lets Talk Health" - October 2011.

Kapalbhati – Lustre to the Face
Popularized by Baba Ramdev in recent times – this is the breathing exercise where you take a deep breath and then forcefully expel it by strongly contracting your diaphragm repeatedly. Oxygen consumption increases, carbon dioxide is flushed out. Kapalbhati has been found to de-stress the mind, and bring calmness and clarity to the practitioner. Found to be extremely beneficial for warding off respiratory illnesses from colds to tuberculosis and emphysema; remedies stomach ailments, strengthens circulatory system; stimulates and regulates hormones; invigorates, cleanses and revitalizes brain cells. It also helps in weight loss and counteracts depression.To be done twice daily for best results.
Warning: To be practiced on an empty stomach, to be done gently and increased gradually by chronic disease patients; should only be done with expert supervision by patients suffering from heart disease, high B.P., spondylosis, slip disc and hernia; should be avoided during pregnancy and periods.

Agnisar – The Essence of Fire
In Agnisar – the stomach is withdrawn towards the backbone as far as possible repeatedly. This is done after all of the breath has been expelled from the lungs. The practitioner holds the breath while doing several such contractions. This cleansing pranayama strengthens the fire within our bodies – which is crucial to the functioning of the digestive system. It improves vitality in the body, awakening our inner energy and strengthening the internal organs. It is said to cure asthma and tuberculosis as well as a host of phlegm-related problems. Healthy women are advised to do this pranayama after childbirth as it helps to tighten up the abdominal and pelvic muscles and bring the internal organs back to their initial condition. Agnisar makes our digestive organs function optimally – ensuring that the foundation for good health is strong within our bodies.
Warning: Not to be done on a full stomach; not to be done by people with high B.P., heart problems, ulcers and hernia; pregnant women should also avoid this, as should people with ear, nose and eye problems.

Bhastrika – Bellows Breath
As the name suggests – the Bellows Breath is where you intake and expel the air from your lungs forcefully  – similar to the air pushed in and out of the bellows. This is a powerful exercise that is basically a state of controlled hyperventilation. Bhastrika increases warmth in the body;destroys phlegm (thus working against asthma, sinusitis etc.); it eliminates wind, bile and phlegm related diseases; it activates and invigorates the liver, pancreas and spleen and also stimulates the metabolic rate.
Warning: Not to be done if you are pregnant or suffering from high B.P.

Ujjayi – Victorious Breath
In the Ujjayi, one’s throat is constricted and the breath is inhaled through the nose, with a hissing sound – like a sigh with the mouth closed; holding the breath for a few seconds before exhaling deeply. According to B.K.S. Iyengar, “this pranayama aerates the lungs, removes phlegm, gives endurance, soothes the nerves and tones the entire system. Ujjayi done in a reclining position, is ideal for persons suffering from high blood pressure and coronary troubles.” This pranayama is said to be a miracle remedy for thyroid problems, cures snoring, is beneficial in healing throat problems – including asthma, tonsils, colds and coughs.

Bhramari – Humming Bee Breath
This pranayama exercise has the practitioner making a sound while inhaling and exhaling – usually an ‘Om’ is chanted with the ‘m’ drawn out. This exercise is said to work miracles in healing throat problems. It calms the mind, elevates the mood and reduces stress; it is also beneficial in reducing anger, anxiety, insomnia and blood pressure.  Practitioners experience a speeding up of healing and great post-surgery benefits from this breathing.

Nadi Shodhana/ Anuloma-Viloma – Alternate Nostril Breathing
One of the most popular pranayama exercises – the practitioner breathes in through the right nostril, holds the breath and then exhales through the left, repeating the process through the other nostril. It is only recently that scientists have discovered a connection between the nasal cycle and brain function. Yogis have known this for years. It is to bring a balance to the left and right brain hemispheres that this pranayama was designed. This is reputedly one of the most beneficial of all breathing exercises – infusing the blood with oxygen, revitalizing and purifying the body. The practitioner feels clear headed and calm. It detoxifies the blood, calms the mind and soothes anxieties. The millions of nerves or ‘nadis’ contained in our body are purified with this technique. The main purpose of this pranayama is to balance the dual forces of physical and mental energy in the practitioner’s body.
It is highly recommended for individuals who suffer from depression, insomnia, hypertension, high B.P., heart problems, fits of anger and Parkinsons.

Sheetali and Sheetakari – Beat the Heat
These pranayamas are the cooling breath, used during the hot Indian summers to cool and calm the body and mind. Sheetali is done by sticking the tongue out, curling up the sides like a tube and breathing in through this appendage, and breathing out through the nose. In Sheetkari the tongue is placed at the base of the upper teeth, with jaw gently closed and lips slightly parted – inhaling through the teeth, with a hissing sound. Apart from regulating the temperature of the body, these techniques also reduce emotional excitation and tensions. Sheetali refreshes the body, mind and also aids blood purification. It is good for combating high B.P., constipation, indigestion, acidity, ulcer, skin disease and spleen enlargement. It is said that a regular practitioner will be safe from poison and viral infections. Sheetkari improves the disposition – keeping you agile, in high spirits and active throughout the day. It relieves hunger and thirst and clears the complexion – slowing down the appearance of wrinkles and blemishes.
Warning: Avoid this exercise during cold weather, and when you have a cold, cough and other respiratory illnesses. Arthritis or low B.P.  and heart patients should consult a doctor or yoga expert before doing this.

Surya Bheda – Activating the Sun
This pranayama technique focuses on breathing exclusively through the right nostril. The right nostril is considered to be the doorway to the Sun energy in our body. By activating this energy, the body is supported to fight against ‘Vata’ diseases; gas in the abdomen, rhinitis and different kinds of neuralgia. It awakens Kundalini and steadies the concentration of the mind. It increases the digestive fire and appetite and purifies the nerves.
Warning: Should be avoided if one is suffering from fever or diarrhea. People with heart disease, epilepsy, hypertension and high Pitta or acidity should not do this pranayama.
As you can see, incorporating pranayama into your daily routine can be extremely beneficial to long term health. It can be used to correct a variety of ailments. More importantly, if you are healthy right now, starting a breathing routine can be crucial in safeguarding you from going the usual route of ‘decaying with age’.

Pranayama helps you regularize and lower your breathing rate – which is supposed to determine how long you live. The understanding is that the less number of breath you take, the longer you live. It improves blood circulation, meaning that more oxygen is available in your body. This ensures vitality, high immunity and quick healing. More oxygen in the blood also means more oxygen to the heart muscles – making a healthy heart! All of the internal organs benefit from breathing exercises – the lungs, abdomen, intestines, kidneys and pancreas. But the trump card lies in the fact that something so simple as breathing can play such a huge role in mental health. Studies show that pranayama is helpful in treating a wide range of stress related disorders.
A pranayama practitioner develops a steady mind, better judgement and perception and a healthy life. A daily routine can be started at any age, provided the lessons are given by a trained professional. So what are you waiting for? Find a good yoga teacher, and start breathing your way to good health!

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To email the author Reba Paul -  rebekaah.paul@gmail.com 

Easy Breezy Breath of Health!

Did you know that almost 70% of the toxins produced in your body actually leave through your breath?  So when you don’t breathe right, most of the toxins don’t leave; they accumulate in different parts of your body, and over time cause disease. So,  how about trying to breathe your way to a cleaner, fresher body?
Your nose holds far more than just mucus and nasal hair. It holds the potential to energizing and calming your body and mind.

Left, Right

The breath through the left nostril calms the body and the breath through the right nostril energizes you. When you breathe in through the left nostril, the right hemisphere of your brain is activated. This side of your brain is the ‘feeling’ side, which holds your creativity, emotions etc. Breathing through the right nostril activates the right side of your brain – which is the ‘thinking’ side. It holds your logic, linearity, mechanical and technical perception etc. You need both sides of your brain to work in a complementary and harmonious way, without one overshadowing the other. The alternate breathing technique is the best way to ensure this. When you do this breathing, you calm down your overworked left brain and awaken your ignored right brain.

The Purifying Breath

While you are doing this breathing exercise, you need to hold your right hand in a certain manner. Make a loose fist with your right hand. Now, open up your thumb from the fist, then open up the ring and little finger. You should have your index and middle finger touching your palm somewhere below the base of the thumb. Hold this position without straining your fingers, be easy and gentle. As you do the exercise, you may manipulate the fingers a bit for better comfort. As far as possible, do this exercise on an empty stomach, or three hours after a meal.
1.. Place your right thumb against the right nostril and gently close the nostril. Do not push hard against your nose.
2.. Inhale – a long and gentle breath- through your left nostril
3.. Pause for a second.
4.. With your thumb still holding the right nostril closed, bring your ring finger to your left nostril and close it. Release the thumb from the right nostril.
5.. Exhale through the right nostril.
6.. Holding your hand in the same position, inhale through the right nostril.
7.. Pause for a second.
8.. With the ring finger still holding the left nostril closed, bring thumb up to close the right nostril. Release the left nostril.
9.. Exhale through the left nostril.
You have finished one round of alternate nostril breathing. When you start, do 1-3 rounds. If you are feeling comfortable with this pace, gradually increase the number of rounds. Remember to never force your breath – gentleness and ease of breathing will give you far better results than forcefulness. When you finish the exercise, sit with your eyes closed for a few minutes and breathe normally. Observe your mind.
There are certain variations to the technique that you can try when you get used to the routine. If you breathe in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 8 and then exhale for a count of 8. As you progress, you can try to hold your breath for a count of 16, and then exhale in 8 counts. Do not hold your breath for a long count if you have a history of high blood pressure. Just do the exercise as it has been described, allow your blood pressure to stabilize and get to normal and then proceed to the more intense practice.

Benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing

As with any exercise, you will get maximum benefits from this practice when you do it regularly. This is a great way to revitalize your system. So anytime during the day when you feel ‘low’, get to a quiet corner and do a few rounds of this to get your mood up! A few minutes of alternate breathing, gets you prepped up and calms your mind down to face an interview or an exam.
Regular practice of alternate nostril breath has also been found to improve brain function. It improves clarity and enhances focus, bringing in equal amounts of oxygen to both hemispheres of the brain. People who suffer from anxiety or are easily agitated, report that this kind of breathing helps them to naturally and easily calm their minds. No wonder the yogis used to say that regulating the breath helps to control the mind!

Perhaps the greatest benefit that this pranayama brings is the harmonizing of the two sides of our brain. Bringing our brain to its full use and potential could be revolutionary in our lives! Of course, breathing in through just one nostril can also be done to activate a specific brain hemisphere. Try this out for yourself – the next time you want to calm down and relax, try breathing in only through your left nostril and see what happens. Alternately, when you are driving or focusing on something, breathe in through only the right nostril for a minute and notice the difference.

This technique is excellent for cleansing the lungs. Just a five minute practice every morning, will get rid of the stale air loaded with impurities from the bottom of the lungs. Most of us do not use our whole lungs for breathing – we take shallow breaths, using only the top part of the lungs. This is why stale air that if full of toxins and impurities stays collected in the lower lungs. This technique also helps you sleep better – calming down your nervous system and slowing down your heart rate. If you have trouble falling asleep, try lying on your right side, and breathe in only through the left nostril.

So there you have it. One easy way to address many problems. Try it out for yourself, and do it for at least a week regularly to experience the benefits. All you have to gain is better energy flow throughout your body, more oxygen helping all of your systems to work right, and in the long run, protection from many illnesses – which means that you save money too! Don’t forget to tell us how it goes!

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