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Numerous misconceptions about the breathing technique of the Yoga persist even today despite the mushrooming of numerous Yoga-teachers and Masters across the whole globe.
A lot is being written on the breathing techniques for the Yoga and other exercises such as the weight lifting, etc. However, the solutions offered are more a matter of a particular tradition being followed by the Yoga-teacher/master rather than a sound scientific pragmatic approach or cool logic.
For example, some are busy doling out half-baked pieces of blanket advice such as: follow the gravity rule – the inhalation during the pro-gravity exercise and the exhalation during the anti-gravity one; the breathing is correct if the belly always falls during the exhalation and rises during the inhalation as claimed by the Western/European scholars.
Or the claims made by the acclaimed Bharatiya Yogaachaaryas such as Swami Shree Kuvalayaanandajee Kaeevlyadhaama that the praannaayaama is correct only if it is done with the ribs expanding outwards and moving up.
But, such pieces of the half-baked advice are always not applicable to all situations and all kinds of the exercises and the Yogaasanas/uniting physical postures as Dr Swaamee Aprtemaanandaa has already demonstrated in his own brief scientific research papers published earlier in the year 2014 and titled WHICH IS THE BEST PRAANNAAYAAM [BREATHING] TECHNIQUE? and WHICH IS THE BEST TIME FOR PRACTISING THE PRAANNAAYAAMA [BREATHING]?
Dr Swaamee Aprtemaanandaa Jee’s scientific theory and explanation
In the light of the rigorous practical observation made over a period of more than twenty years, Dr Swaamee Aprtemaanandaa Jee is of the opinion that the choosing between the inhalation and the exhalation depends on the kind of the exercise and the Maanava shareer rather than the Earth’s gravity only.
For example, during the Taadaasana, the Yoga-practitioner rises on their own toes and feet-fingers with their own heels moving upwards from the ground. The arms rise up, also.
Thus, the Taadaasana involves straining of the whole shareer, especially the feet, legs, waist, chest and arms.
This is an anti-gravity Aasana/physical posture.
Now, there it shall be tremendously uncomforting and strain on the belly if the Yoga-practitioner inhales with the belly rising while performing the Taadaasana. So, it is not advisable to simultaneously raise the belly and inhale during the Taadaasana.
This in the above case scenario leads us to the two logically viable propositions:
1. The inhalation of the air, with the chest expanding and moving upward. The tummy falls and strains upwards. Then after a few seconds the Yoga-practitioner returns to the original standing position with feet, heels and arms moving down. The chest and waistlines contract to their original positions. The tummy stresses downwards and rises to its original position. All the while, the Yoga-practitioner continues exhaling the air.
2. The exhalation of the air, with the chest expanding and moving upward. The tummy falls and strains upwards. Then after a few seconds the Yoga-practitioner returns to the original standing position with feet, heels and arms moving down. The chest and waistlines contract to their original positions. The tummy stresses downwards and rises to its original position. All the while, the Yoga-practitioner continues inhaling the air.
The first proposition is practically viable since the fresh oxygen enters the lungs, purifies them and finally the toxic carbon dioxide is expelled during the exhalation involved in returning to the original position.
The second proposition is practically harmful and not viable since the lungs and chest don’t expand during the inhalation involved in returning to the original position. This means there is no presence of the requisite significant amount of the fresh oxygen in the lungs on returning to the original position.
Although the toxic carbon dioxide is thrown out while rising up in the second proposition yet the second proposition doesn’t allow infusion of much fresh oxygen in the lungs since the chest and lungs stress/contract during their return to the original position.
The example of the Taadaasana clearly illustrates the basic point that the half-baked advice of the breathing always being correct with the tummy rising and the air inhaled, is factually not correct for all the Yogaasanas/uniting physical postures.
The following are the basic golden rules for breathing correctly while performing the Yogaasanas/uniting physical postures:
1. The Yogaasanas/uniting physical postures done in the standing/moving/sideways Vertical Positions (VPs) of the Maanava shareer with reference to the Earth/plane surface primarily involve the inhalation/exhalation of the air, with the ribs/chest expanding out/contracting in moving upward/downward simultaneously respectively.
The tummy falls/rises and strains/stresses upwards/downwards respectively.
The diaphragm, the muscle under the lungs, is deflated or pulled down during the inhalation and is curved up during the exhalation.
The Intercostals, the muscles that lay between the ribs, contract during the breathing in/inhalation enabling the expansion of the chest and the inhalation of the air by the lungs. These muscles expand/relax during the breathing out/exhalation enabling the contraction of the chest and then throwing the impure Carbon Dioxide gas out of the lungs.
The lungs expand during the inhalation which helps in the inhalation of a greatly increased amount of the air into the tiny airbags called Alveoli inside the lungs. These are the smallest air passages in the lungs. The smallest blood vessels called the Capillaries surround the Alveoli.
The billions of red blood cells existing in the Capillaries release the impure Carbon Dioxide into the lungs, through the Capillary walls. The impure Carbon Dioxide then is thrown out during the exhalation.
The inhaled fresh Oxygen is carried into the Capillaries, via the Alveoli walls. The red blood cells existing inside the Capillaries then transport the fresh Oxygen so received to those parts of the Maanava shareer that are in the urgent need of the fresh Oxygen.
The moving-up VPs are anti-gravity. For example the Taadaasana. The standing/moving-down VPs aren’t.
This breathing technique is termed the PULL UP DOWN BREATHING TECHNIQUE [PUDBT] by Dr Swaamee Aprtemaanandaa Jee.
2. The Yogaasanas/uniting physical postures done in the laying-on-back Horizontal Positions (HPs) of the Maanava shareer with reference to the Earth/plane surface primarily involve the inhalation of the air without the chest expansion and its movement upward. The tummy rises and strains upwards. This breathing technique is termed BULGING CONTRACTING STOMACH TECHNIQUE [BCST] by Dr Swaamee Aprtemaanandaa Jee.
3. The Yogaasanas/uniting physical postures done in the forward-moving or the backward-moving Horizontal Positions (HPs) of the Maanava shareer with reference to the Earth/plane surface primarily involve the exhalation of the air without chest expansion and its attendant movement upwards. The tummy falls and either contracts/stresses (inwards) or expands/strains (upwards) respectively.
4. The leg-lifting Yogaasanas/uniting physical postures done in the laying-on-back Horizontal Positions (HPs) of the Maanava shareer with reference to the Earth/plane surface primarily involve the inhalation of the air without chest expansion and its movement upward. The tummy rises and strains upwards when the legs are lifted and moved upwards.
5. The Yogaasanas/uniting physical postures done in the laying-on-tummy Horizontal Positions (HPs) of the Maanava shareer with reference to the Earth/plane surface primarily involve the inhalation of the air with the chest expanding and moving/straining upwards without any significant movement of the tummy.
6. The Yogaasanas involving the ribs/chest expansion generally are best suited to the summer season. The experience shows that this type helps cool down the body, especially the mind/brain.
7. The Yogaasanas involving the belly expansion generally are best suited to the winter season. The experience shows that this type helps warm-up the body.
8. To ensure that both the digestive and respiratory systems keep functioning optimally, it’s advisable to do the 5-10 cycles of the belly-expanding and rib-expanding Anuloma-Veloma Praannaayaamas daily. Perform them after each other after some sufficient gap only, say 20-30 minutes’ time.
The belly-expanding Anuloma-Veloma Praannaayaama keeps the belly-related and associated organs/functions healthy such as the stomach, intestines, colon, pancreas, spleen, kidneys.
The rib-expanding Anuloma-Veloma Praannaayaama keeps the ribs/chest related and associated organs/functions healthy such as the heart, chest, brain, blood circulation, etc.
The blood becomes toxic and of inferior quality if both the digestive and respiratory systems don’t function properly. The efficient healthy functioning of the digestive and respiratory systems is essential to provide the fresh pure oxygen and body-building nutrients to the blood.
The alternate contraction/relaxation of the Diaphragm and the abdominal muscles helps massage the organs useful in the digestion such as the stomach, pancreas and spleen.
9. The praannaayaama always must be done in the Siddhaasana sitting position with a comfortable straight back. This position prevents the harmful downward flow of the precious energy in various forms, especially the sexual energy that would otherwise happen if the feet is not pressed against the pelvic bone/floor.
10. The chest must not be held in a stiff position. The stiff position of the chest reduces the ability of the lungs to take in the larger amount of the fresh air during the inhalation and causes them to become weaker on being struck by the inhaled air. Whereas the non-stiff relaxed elastic chest enables the lungs to bear larger amount of the inhaled air. The weakened lungs are unable to expel the inhaled air which becomes impure and finds its way out in the form of the burps.
11. Don’t do the Praannaayaama in the open air because the strokes of the open air block the excretion of the impurities in the form of the perspiration from the Maanava shareer. Also, don’t apply oil on the Maanava shareer since doing so stiffens the waste material existing inside the naaddees/veins/nerves/capillaries which doesn’t get excreted easily. Instead, apply the perspiration-droplets on the Maanava shareer as it softens the Maanava shareer besides preventing the loss of the Praann-Tattva or the vital energy element from the Maanava shareer.
12. It is worth mentioning here that in the case of the exercises such as the weight lifting, the inhalation does indeed help immensely while lifting the weight.
The weight-lifter must exhale while banding to lift the weight with the tummy falling/contracting downwards.
Once the weight is firmly in the grips of the hand/s then the weight-lifter must start inhaling with the ribs expanding upwards and simultaneously lift it up. This process is same as that of the VPs.
They must continue inhaling till the weight is fully lifted up.
Then they must retain the breath for a few seconds.
They thereafter must start exhaling slowly and at the same time bring down the hand/s holding the weight/s slowly before putting the weight/s on the ground/surface.
How does the breathing technique help the weight-lifter?
Let’s understand with the help of few simple examples though not an exact analogy.
The body of a bicycle rises up defying the Earth’s gravity on inflation of the tubes in its tyres with a pump. The same bicycle appears to come down on deflation of its tubes.
The balloon flies up in the air defying the Earth’s gravity on being filled up with the air and falls down on being punctured.
Somewhat similar phenomenon takes place during the inhalation and the exhalation of the air by the weight-lifter during the process of the weight-lifting exercise.
The inhaled-air activates a complicated process that gives the extra strength and energy to various body-parts of the weight-lifter enabling them to lift up the weight/s rather easily. This is akin to the inflation of the tubes/balloon.
They are able to put down the weight relatively comfortably while exhaling the inhaled-air. This is akin to the deflation of the tubes/balloon.
A word of caution: It always is advisable for the Yoga-beginners to start practising the Yogaasanas/uniting physical postures or other exercises under the direct supervision of a really fully competent/qualified trainer only before their own becoming competent enough to do so without any need for the direct supervision from someone else!
~ Dr Swaamee Aprtemaanandaa Jee
(Fotos: Courtesy The Parragon, The Gita Press Gorakhpur, The Google)
THE REFERENCE MTERIAL: