Have you heard of Viagra? The iconic blue tablet, which gave rise to millions of erections, relies upon a particular molecule that could also serve as a first line of defense against the coronavirus. And the best part is, to utilize this molecule, now, for free, you might not need anything but a few minutes to breathe in a particular way to produce life saving effects.
Nitric Oxide is naturally produced in the body for a wide variety of important functions. One of those functions is to neutralize invading pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and fungi. Because viruses shrivel in the presence of this gas, extra inhaled Nitric Oxide was found to be an effective way of treating the coronavirus behind the 2003 SARS epidemic. Now that the SARS-CoV-2 (Covid-19) virus, is taking over the planet, considerable interest is arising in using Nitric Oxide again. What doctors are finding is that inhalation of NO gas might be an effective form of treatment for Covid-19. Nitric Oxide was first discovered by three scientists who won the Nobel Prize in 1998 for uncovering its role in heart health. Since that time, over 150,000 papers have been published on NO describing its effects on many essential and healthful aspects of human functioning.
NO is produced on the tongue from the interaction of foods high in nitrates (green vegetables and beets primarily), in the endothelial cells which line our blood vessels (they play a role in smooth muscle relaxation) and in the paranasal sinuses where they provide both a first line of defense against incoming pathogens and stimulate the hair-like structures called cilia to move particles out of the nose. Given the most interesting possibilities of NO to minimize the coronavirus from taking hold in our respiratory tract, it would be great if we could produce more in our body, right?
Breathing problems after Covid? Well, the answer could be right under your own nose.
Studies carried out at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden demonstrate that humming increases Nitric Oxide in the upper respiratory tract by 15-20 times. Yes, humming, like what you hear at the end of an OM. Apparently this humming is the most effective when you feel the vibrations rattling your sinuses. These vibrations move the nitric oxide out of the paranasal sinuses and into the airways, and when you breathe in through the nose (very important to make this work!) it spreads the nitric oxide around where it can do things like reduce viral load and make your experience of a cold or flu much easier.
In fact, there is a case report (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16406689/) of a man who hummed for an hour a day to cure himself of a serious nose infection in only four days. So the next time you catch a cold or flu, spend 20 to 30 minutes humming! Humming Exercise
Here is a simple humming exercise you can do if you feel you are coming down with a respiratory infection, sinusitis, or are unwell. You can do it any time as a preventative measure to help boost immunity.
Inhale through your nose
As you exhale slowly through your nose make a sustained “ngggggggggg…" sound. It should vibrate the bones of the front of your face.
Now, breathe in gently through your nose and repeat.
To increase the effect of the exercise you can gently massage the sinuses around your nose, temples and above your eye sockets while doing the exercise.
If you have a stubborn blocked nose or sinusitis repeat this exercise for 10 to 20 minutes, two to four times a day for a few days or until symptoms improve.
The Sound of a Black Bee
I would be derelict in my role as a long term yoga teacher to neglect to mention that this is the basis of a yoga pranayama technique called "Brahmari" - which means "the sound of a black humming bee". While the Medieval texts of yoga didn't mention nitric oxide, what they did extol as benefits was that the humming has a power to cut right through the chatter of the mind. To enhance this effect and bring the mind to focus more internally, one hums while applying fingers to block the ears, cover the eyes and seal the lips together. So please note that we are not making the claim that humming alone will prevent or cure COVID-19. But humming does increase upper respiratory nitric oxide and that is precisely what is being currently investigated as a possible treatment for Covid-19.
Given the research on and efficacy of NO in other similar conditions, it is plausible that adding humming for a few minutes a day may be a preventative practice worth taking up! https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1745376/pdf/v054p00947.pdf https://anatomypubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/ar.20782