How Yoga can help with breathing

03 December 2020

How Yoga can help with breathing

How Yoga can help with breathing

The synchronization between breathing and physical activity training is vital for performance and high performance. We don't really pay much attention to our breathing, as it’s an autonomous movement of the diaphragm.

Take swimming as an example, as it’s a better known physical activity. One of the components of swimming learning is breathing, without which it’s very difficult to swim and, of course, to obtain good marks for those who are competitive athletes.

When we are doing most of the daily tasks, and particularly sedentary workers, the breathing is shallow, the air is being renewed with each inspiration, in about 1.2 liters. This volume of fresh air is very different in situations of exercise, running, swimming, yoga, because there we inspire a lot more air, about 4 liters for women and 5 liters for men. And it makes a difference to oxygenate the blood well, which is one of the measured parameters that show our vitality. Vitality is linked to the quality of our breathing. Just as we need to exercise to maintain muscle mass, it’s vital to be aware of the need to prevent premature aging of respiratory function. And it should be remembered that the respiratory function is one of those that ages the most after 50 years.

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So the question is: how can we help maintain good respiratory function?

One answer of yoga is to maintain the elasticity of the pulmonary alveoli, these small “balloons” in the lungs. To get an idea of the total surface of the filled pulmonary alveoli, on inspiration, when we are at the top of our physical development, it’s equivalent to the area of a good T2 apartment!

Walking, faster walking and other outdoor activities help to keep the pulmonary alveoli fuller for longer, helping to maintain their elasticity.

And can Yoga help?

Yes, particularly at this time when we have to be more at home, and when the practice of joint physical exercise has more restrictions. In ancestral yoga, one of its eight branches is PRANAYAMA – “the breathing”, so you can see its importance. Anyone who wants to deepen their yoga breathing can research how to do various breathing exercises. Learning yoga breathing exercises will help to maintain good breathing function.

In this article I present an exercise that you can regularly do at home and at the office, just by taking a five-minute break.

The NADI SHODHANA – “cleaning channels breathing”, is an alternate breath with blockage of the nostrils. It’s a rhythmic conscious breathing. Sitting in a chair, with your back straight, feet hip-width apart and resting on the floor, with your hands in your lap. Or sitting on the floor, for those who feel comfortable with it. A medium pillow supporting your hips can help keep your back straighter. With your fingers on the MUDRA of the most well-known yoga, joining the index finger and thumb in a circle. The MUDRA is a hand gesture that increases the concentration of energy for what you are going to do next.

Fig. I - MUDRA

First of all, observe that the breath is abdominal, and feel the expansion movement of the abdomen when inhaling, and the contraction when exhaling, during some breaths, until you feel more aware of your body.
Then bring the right hand, to the right-handers, and cover the right nostril with the middle finger keeping the MUDRA indicated and inhale deeply the chest to fill, in addition to the abdomen to dilate. Hold for 5 seconds, we are having the alveoli, the small “balloons” dilated.

Then, block the left nostril with the same middle finger as the right hand and exhale compressing the belly to be practically breathless. Hold the compressed abdomen for 5 seconds, inhale through the right nostril until the chest is full, and hold for 5 seconds. Change nostril and exhale. Repeat with tranquility 5 complete conscious breaths. Observe our breathing at the end, and notice that breathing has three distinct zones, abdominal breathing, chest breathing and clavicular breathing. Clavicular breathing is more convenient to practice with some specific yoga postures.

Good breathing practice and stay healthy!

By Nefetali Amante, Yoga Teacher at Academia Bodylab

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