Yogic Breathing

Who doesn’t like massage? Personally, I haven’t come across such person yet. You may prefer one type of massage over the other, but in general, we all like it. We don’t need to research any academic books to know that massage is good for the body – one can feel it after a properly done session.

Now how about internal organs? They serve us so well throughout our lives, so should we not treat them to something nice? Obviously proper diet and lifestyle matter a lot. Yet can we give them another treat? Fortunately, we can. The answer is yogic breathing . In this post I explain what benefits it brings, and if you have or are in the process of nurturing love towards self, I wish that this post will leave you no other option but one – practice yogic breathing daily.

Yogic Breathing is a full-lung capacity inhalation and exhalation with the proper work of diaphragm (here is a 3-D video of a diaphragm). We should inhale deeply making our lungs expand to a maximum and exhale completely pushing all the air out. Now, it sounds easy yet might be hard to apply.

Here is a step-by-step guide.

  • First things first: make sure your spine is straight and you are comfortable. These two are equally important, so if sitting cross-legged on the floor straightens your spine but brings along a lot of discomfort to some other body parts, find a position (lean against the wall, sit upright on a chair or use plenty of cushions, etc) when you are more or less at ease. Make sure your shoulders are open and relaxed; facial muscles are not tense.
  • Secondly, take a deep breath in engaging the diaphragm and thus inflating the stomach area first. (It is important to start the inhalation from the abdomen and only then lift the chest. Maybe you can practice abdominal breathing first.) Visualize how the air is filling the lung floor, then the middle part of the lungs expanding the chest and finally the top third of the lungs slightly lifting your collarbone and shoulders. Once you feel completely inflated as if you were a balloon, start an exhalation.
  • Finally, exhale slowly letting the air flow out from your lungs. Start exhaling from your abdomen by slightly contacting your core muscles and continue the exhalation upwards.

The first few breaths might seem awkward: it will feel more natural after a few rounds. Practicing regularly, you will notice that there is a 1-2 sec cessation of breath once the exhalation is complete. Observe the stillness of the body and the frontal space of your head at those moments.

And now, the benefits of yogic breathing.

When we breathe normally, diaphragm is moving only 1-1.5 cm. When one is doing yogic breathing, the diaphragm is stretched 6 -7 cm. (Breathing naturally, we take in around 250 ml of air; yogic breathing increases air intake up to 1 liter.) Thus,

  • with each breath we are massaging 7! important internal organs: heart, lungs, liver, spleen, kidneys, stomach and adrenal glands. Moreover, the main artery of the body – aorta and the main vein towards the heart – Vena Cava are also getting massaged.
  • The Vagus nerve, which belongs to parasympathetic nervous system and is thus responsible for rest and repair mechanism in the body, passes through the diaphragm and is therefore stimulated.
  • By massaging the lymphatic channel that comes through the diaphragm, yogic breathing stimulates lymphatic circulation in the whole body thus helping rid our system of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials.
  • With each yogic breath we massage the intervertebral discs (which get their nutrition from the lymph) in the lumbar spine.
  • Lungs get fully ventilated.
  • The intake of oxygen is increased, and CO2 levels are decreased.
  • Heart rate slows down yet bigger volumes are pumped through the heart.

All of these benefits contribute to the physical well-being of the body as well as our mental and emotional state. Yogic breathing does calm down the mind and make one feel more peaceful after the practice.

Please remember that yogic breathing should be done on an empty stomach or 3 hours after a major meal.