During one of the workshops, somebody mentioned “After so many years of my birth ,now I am learning how to breath” . Yes, breathing is involuntary action. We breathe all the time without us being aware, unless you are asked to observe or you are attending yoga class. Have you observed your breathing anytime? What exactly happens when you breathe ?
Breathing Process (In and Out):
When you breath in or inhale, your diaphragm contracts (tightens) and moves downward (Fig 1). This increases the space in chest activity into which your lungs expands. The intercostal muscles between your ribs also help to enlarge the chest cavity. They contract to pull your rib cage both upwards and outwards when you inhale.
When you breathe out or exhale, your diaphragm relaxes and moves upwards into the chest cavity. As the space in the chest cavity gets smaller, air rich in carbon dioxide is forced out of your lungs and windpipe, then out of your nose or mouth.
Blood circulation and oxygen flow:
Through the thin walls of alveoli, oxygen from air passes to the surrounding capillaries (blood vessels). A red blood cell protein called the haemoglobin helps move oxygen from air sacs to the blood.
At the same time, CO2 moves from capillaries into the air sacs. The gas has travelled in the bloodstream from the right side of the heart through pulmonary artery.
Oxygen rich blood from lungs is carried through a network of capillaries to the pulmonary vein. This vein delivers the oxygen rich blood to the left side of heart. The left side of heart pumps the blood to rest of the body. There, the oxygen in blood moves from the blood vessels into surrounding tissues.
Important thing to note is , Breath out process is more important than breath in. It is needed to empty out the lungs completely before air comes in. With proper exhalation, blockage is cleared, hence when you breath in, you feel more fresh. Yoga’s essential aim is to eliminate impurities.
Breathing (Connection to mind/stress) :
There have been a lot of changes in our lifestyles today compared to the old days. Life has become fast. Everybody needs to be and wants to be in the race. This has made our actions fast, which affects breathing. When you are stressed, your breathing becomes fast, so we either breathe too fast or too slow or jerky. Then what is ideal breathing ?…. Breathing should be slow and deep.
Why slow breathing is important? Slow breathing has great life span and quality of life. Breathing is directly associated with mind. If you breath slowly, it helps to calm down your mind and helps to stay in the present moment. This indirectly helps to relive stress.
What is ideal breathing rate? A normal healthy person should take 14-16 breaths (breath in and out) in a minute. Tortoise breath very slowly, 5 breaths in a minutes and it lives more than 200 yrs whereas, dogs breaths very fast (10 to 30 breathing per minute), whose life span is as short as 10-14 yrs.
Breathing exercises and benefits:
Abdominal breathing technique:
Abdominal breathing is also known as diaphragmic breathing. When you take a deep breath in ,abdomen rises higher than chest. In this process, diaphragm contracts pulling air into the lungs. When exhale, diaphragm expands which pulls abdomen in. In general, exhalation should be twice as long as inhalation.
Breathing exercises are simply body movements synchronized with abdominal breathing.
1. Hands in and out :
Stand in tadasana. Now slowly bring hands at your shoulder level, palms facing each other in front of you. As you inhale, stretch your arms sideways, palms away from each other expanding your chest. As you exhale, bring your palms together in starting position. Repeat 5-7 times.
2.Hands stretch( vertical, 135 degrees, horizontal) :
Interlock your fingers, then bring both palms on chest with shoulders relaxed. As you inhale, stretch your arms straight in front of you with palms stretching outwards. As you exhale, bring both palms back on chest. Repeat same exercises with hands stretched in 135 degrees and horizontal stretched over head. Repeat 5-7 times.
3. Ankles stretch breathing :
Stand in tadasana. As you inhale, raise both arms up and over head ,at the same time stretch your ankles (heels) up. As you exhale, bring your arms down .Repeat 5-7 times.
4. Dog breathing:
Sit in vajrasana. Now slowly bring your forearms on the floor bending forwards in front of your knees. First, breathe normally and then start panting like a dog. You can complete 30-40 rounds.
5. Lion breathing (Cat, cow breathing) :
Come on your fours (palms and knees) .Both knees should be one arms distance away from each other and both palms should be one arms away in line with knees.
As you inhale, raise your head up, at the same time arch in your lower back. As you exhale, bring your chin close to the chest, extending your lower back out (arch out lower back). Repeat 5-7 times.
Benefits of breathing exercises :
Physical benefits :
Strengthen the lungs :
1. Normally while breathing, we use mostly middle part of the lungs, whereas upper and lower lobes are not used much. With breathing exercises, all the parts of lungs will be used, hence use full capacity of lungs.
2. With healthy lungs, you get more oxygen to your body (improved blood circulation). Every cell is getting more oxygen and in turn you are getting more oxygen. Hence, you feel energized whole day.
3. Processing of exchanging o2 and CO2 in body will happen properly
Mental benefits :
1. Breathing exercises helps to calm down your mind. With calm mind ,you are more focused and creative
2.You will be present and aware 100% at that moment
3. Helps to take good decision with calm mind
4. Reduces stress
Breathing exercises helps to reduce
3. Stress related problems