All aerobic creatures need oxygen for cellular respiration which uses the oxygen to break down foods for energy and produce carbon dioxide as a waste product. This process is essential to life!

Breathing brings air into the lungs where gas exchange takes place. The circulatory system transports these gases to and from the cells where cellular respiration takes place.  In each complete breath, three phases can be distinguished:

  • Inhalation
  • Exhalation 
  • Retention

 One phase flows into the other and the exhalation should last approximately twice as long as the inhalation. 

“Without food we can survive several weeks, without water we can survive for a few days, without breathing we can survive for just a few minutes. Our life begins and ends with a breath. “ 

The Full Yoga Breath

In yoga three types of breathing are distinguished (bellow) and the Sanskrit expressions for the three phases are: Puraka (inhalation); Rechaka (exhalation) and kumbhaka (retention) 

When one practices this type of breathing involving the 3 elements and utilising the full lung capacity naturally without control, one is practicing the full yoga breath. Let’s first understand each individually before putting it into practice:

  • Abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing 

This forms the basis of breathing as it allows the full use of lung capacity slows down the breath naturally and promotes relaxation. Every time we inhale, the diaphragm moves downwards compressing the abdominal organs so that the abdominal wall extends outward

  • Chest breathing 

This breathing occurs automatically in stressful situations due to nervousness or tension. The unconscious form of rapid breathing creates a heightened state of tension. The air flows into the middle lobe of the lungs and are not filled as much as in abdominal breathing and the breath is rapid and shallow. 

  • Collarbone or clavicular breathing 

It occurs automatically in situations of extreme stress and panic. Here, the air flows into the top of the lungs; the breath is very shallow and rapid. 

Practicing the complete yoga breath incorporates the three types of breathing that in turn harmonizes and calms body and mind. On the other hand, breathing that is too rapid and shallow has a negative influence upon us, as it can intensify nervousness, stress, tension and pain. 

Physical benefits

Massages the organs

Improves circulation

Tones abdominal muscles 

Strengthens the immune system

Strengths the heart muscle

Increases energy 

Releases tension 

Mental benefits 

Slows racing thoughts and brings clarity 

Helps relieve emotional problems

Strengthens the nervous system 

Promotes good mood 

Try it now ….

 Lie on your back, ideally on a hard surface. Arms are relaxed beside the body and palms facing upwards. The legs can be straight or bent with the soles of the feet on the floor.

 Close your eyes and consciously relax your body with a few deep long breaths; first inhale by filling the abdomen and then continue inhaling as you expand and fill the chest. Secondly, exhale first from the chest as it empties and falls and continue exhaling from the abdomen as it draws inwards completely. This is one round of the full yoga breath. 

 Repeat this for 20 rounds. 

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