Why we teach and encourage the lengthened exhalation in yoga
By Pranyog Reading, Jan 26 2017 12:57PM
You may have noticed that at Pran Yoga Reading there is a prevailing emphasis on breath work. On a physical level there are two main reasons why we teach lengthened exhalation during yoga practice. It provides us with both physical and psychological benefits.
There is more in a simple breath than we may realise. Firstly the oxygen we breath acts as fire of life, burning the nutrients in the system and turning them into energy which we need to live and interact with the world. Without oxygen body cells would die within minutes of being generated. Secondly, the process of exhalation also allows the body to dispose of carbon dioxide and other waste gases that our body produces.
The exchange of gases takes place though the air sacs known as alveoli. A minute network of blood vessels called capillaries surrounds each sac. It is through these capillaries that oxygen enters the bloodstream and is distributed throughout the body. Carbon dioxide is removed through the alveoli from blood travelling in the opposite direction. This process provides the necessary supply and removal of gases for all the normal cell activities. It is miraculous that this happens in the space of a heartbeat without us ever noticing.
What is hyperventilation?
Hyperventilation occurs when a person takes a quick deep breath from the top of their chest. There are many reasons for hyperventilation for example anxiety, poor posture and stress. These quick deep breaths reduce the level of carbon dioxide in the blood which causes arteries to contract and reduce the flow of blood throughout the body. When this occurs our brain and body will experience a shortage of oxygen making these symptoms worse.
Teaching Pranayama or breath work often centres around lengthening the exhalation The aim is to re-educate the student by rebalancing the mechanical forces and the release of energy. The asanas are carried out with awareness of both inhalation and lengthening of exhalation of breath and the abdominal muscles, which contract during the process.
Breathing is a natural way in which we unconsciously release tension and restore energy. When we inhale during Yoga practice we encourage rich oxygenated blood to all the tissues helping them to positive health. As we exhale we aid the elimination of toxins and waste products.
A fuller life
It is said in Yoga that:
'Life is breath and he who only half breathes, only half lives'
In today's society it is a sad reality that most people only use a third of their lung capacity. We would have much more energy, less tension and positive health were we to take a fuller set of lungs with each breath. Just 3 minutes a day of deep breathing that can have a profound effect.
So we teach lengthening the exhalation, it brings to our awareness a deeper sense of focus. What is more is that breathing correctly will assist us with the holding of asana. This provides us with a more fulfilling yoga experience. Pran Yoga Reading teach exercises that will retrain you to breath in a more relaxed way, each of our classes have a focus on breath work especially the Saturday and Sunday classes which are longer.
SO BREATH IN SOFTLY.
THEN BREATH OUT COMPLETELY.
By Johanna Nye.
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