So from the part-1 post, we know that how when we hold the asana, our major muscle groups are gently stretched, and so does muscles joining the bones. This, when held for some time, leads to increased blood circulation in that area. Which in turn leads to the better nourishment of affected body parts.
Now let’s delve deeper into how yoga asana practice works on other body functions (respiratory system).
Biology of Breathing (respiratory system)
When we breathe, it happens in three steps:
- Inhaling adequate breath
- Proper exchange of oxygen & carbon dioxide
- Complete exhalation
This is what our lungs are designed to do, ideally, with no intervention required.
And therein lies one of the most important issues we are facing currently. Majority of people are not breathing the proper way. The way our system is designed to breathe.
There are two reasons for that:
- We are not taught how to breathe properly
- Our daily routine has led to improper breathing habits.
- You are not able to inhale up to natural capacity of your lungs
- The slouched position doesn’t allow lungs to expand
- The exhalation is not complete as the bottom part of lungs are not involved.
This way of breathing, leads to insufficient breathing. Leading to deficiency of oxygen in certain body parts. Which, over time, leads to stiffness, pain & other issues.
Let’s see how yoga solves this issue.
How yoga teaches us to breathe properly:
A yogic practice involves with great emphasis on proper breathing. When you are holding any asana, then also you have to slow down your breath to make yourself comfortable in that position.
This leads to a deep and calm breathing pattern.
Even in the dynamic practice like Suryanamaskar, the movement from one position to other is synchronized with your breath. You inhale when bending backwards and you exhale when you bend forward.
Or, in simple words, you inhale when you expand your body and you exhale when you contract.
This rhythm of breathing along with body movements enforces a deep breathing pattern.
And, then is a complete practice of Pranayama. Pranayama revolves around modulating your breath to work with deeper aspects of your energy.
What is Yogic way to breathe properly
Our lungs are narrow at the top and broad at the bottom. The yogic way of breathing is designed to use the bottom of part of our lungs effectively.
To breathe properly, when we inhale, we allow our abdomen to expand and then let it relax when we exhale.
There is a complete observational science behind this approach. You can read about it here : What is proper breathing?
This breathing approach is emphasised in many ways in Yoga classes.
When you practice regularly, this breathing habit is slowly ingrained in your normal style of breathing.
Initially, it is not easy. After all, you are trying to change something that you have developed as habit since you were in your teenage.
To be able to breathe deeply and fully, you have to practice with each breath.
Yoga’s effect on our breath
When you practice your class on daily basis, all these changes start to develop as new habit in your daily routine.
This proper way of breathing leads to proper oxygenation of our blood and thus better nourishment of our body parts.
Moreover, it has been proved now that breathing practices lead to better health. Physically, mentally and also our nervous system.
Scientific American has recently published an article about it: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/proper-breathing-brings-better-health/
For quick readers here is the small list of benefits you get when yoga’s way of breathing works on your body:
- Breathing techniques are effective against anxiety and insomnia.
- These techniques influence both physiological factors (by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system) and psychological factors (by diverting attention from thoughts).