Physiyoga: physical therapy principles meet mindful movement

The Breathing Techniques Yoga Union Founder Alison West Used During Her Covid-19 Recovery
March 23, 2022

We founded Threes Physiyoga to build bridges between the different disciplines and communities within the healthcare and wellness continuum. We believe doing so best supports our overall wellbeing. And our podcast, The Body Puzzle, is the latest place where we’re putting these pieces together. Each episode includes insights from experts and specialists who will empower and challenge our beliefs. They’ll also expand our foundational knowledge, and boost our relationships to our own bodies and each other.

Everyone’s road to recovery from Covid-19 is different, but one part that seems common is the need to do some type of protocol to help restore and increase lung function. For Emily Tomlinson, DPT, co-director of Threes Physiyoga Method, dealing with her long-haul covid symptoms involved breathing exercises and yoga flows focused on opening up the chest, lungs, and diaphragm.

And for Alison West, E-RYT, founder of Yoga Union, it took a combination of breathwork and exploring different body positions to stretch and expand her lungs, which she discusses in her episode of The Body Puzzle.

“I was very, very sick at the end of March [2020], the first couple of weeks of April,” shares West.  “I felt that I had shrink wrapped lungs.” In an effort to access a more expansive breath, West said she began using props to perform some restorative yoga poses. “I would put pillows, my sofa armrest, or bolsters under one side of my chest and lie sideways over that and stretch the top arm overhead to open that side of the chest, then do it on the other side,” she says.

Additionally, West says that she would lie back over her props, “so that I could expand the front of my chest and do deep breathing all the while to stretch the tissues of my lungs.” Another position she found helpful was lying prone (or face down) over her pillows with her nasal cavity below her throat. “So there could be no post-nasal drip, and I would even sleep like that, breathing into the posterior lung,” she says. “And I’d wake up in the morning feeling that everything had been tenderized.” 

In terms of breathing exercises, West says she found relief by practicing a technique called Kapalbhati (also known as breath of fire). “It’s like blowing your nose many times over,” she explains. “If you pretend you’re blowing your nose, you get that action. And if you’re lying down on your back and you do that, for example, or you’re prone on a bolster, you will immediately feel phlegm leaving your lungs.” 

Ultimately, West says these practices helped her during her recovery from Covid-19, but their benefits aren’t limited to just that. “I expanded the tissues of my lungs, which is one of the great things of yoga,” she says. “You do poses, you twist, you rinse, you soak, you expand, and you make your organic body more available to you.”

To hear Alison West talk more about the expansive powers of yoga and breathwork, tune in to her episode of The Body Puzzle below: 

 

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