Life and Breath

On the beach, close to the surf, the waves can be heard as they crash upon the shore and slowly creep up the sand as the sound slowly fades until it reaches a point where the momentum of the movement is lost. Then there is what seems to be a moment of calmness before it makes the tranquil trickling sound as it retreats back towards the source from where it came. And then again… and again… IF you find a quiet calm space, close your eyes and visualize this process, you will see that your breath is not that different from the dance of the ocean.

I’m very fond of pranayama and even know a couple of yogis who have a breathing practice that is as diligent as my asana practice. The topic of breath sounds seemingly extremely simple since it’s an autonomous act and it’s easy to forget about the dynamics of it. As a yoga practitioner, you will find benefit in developing an acute perception of your breath on and off the mat. We’re often reminded as students to check in with our breath at the beginning of class. We may be led through some light three part breathing exercises to get our attention turned inward instead of being focused on the events that preceded our “me time” on our mats. Also, occasionally throughout the duration of a yoga class, we’re reminded to breathe. Some instructors even insist on one breath one move and invite you to take a child’s pose if you need to get your breath to slow down.

So what’s the point here? Why the controlled breathing?

Why does one need breath perception in yoga? Breath perception is a multifaceted practice that has several avenues of benefits. The part that is most interesting to me is that through awareness of breath in yoga, combined with muscle control and smiling while squelching the ego’s voice that’s screaming “OMG! Why are you doing this to me?” there’s the chance for me to see and experience duality from the perspective of my true nature, which I’ve been told is nothing but pure awareness… but that’s just me. We all do things for different reasons. So, we’ll stay grounded to science and reason in this article.

As we all know, the science behind breath is to distribute oxygen to the body. Living creatures need oxygen to survive. The alveoli in our lungs absorb the oxygen in the air where its picked up by hemoglobin in the blood and distributed to the muscles, organs and brain. An interesting thing to note is that the brain is responsible for consuming 20% of the body’s oxygen supply. The physical mechanics behind breathing is also an interesting topic. The thoracic diaphragm is most commonly thought to be the sole mechanism behind breathing, but the body actually utilizes three diaphragms (pelvic diaphragm, thoracic diaphragm and vocal diaphragm) for proper breathing. All three work in congruence to accommodate the breath. The thoracic diaphragm moves downward and compresses the soft contents of the belly and draws air into the lungs by creating an atmospheric pressure differential. The pelvic diaphragm supports the organs and billows down and broadens as we inhale, when we exhale it retracts upwards and narrows. The vocal diaphragm between the trachea and the base of the tongue regulates the pressure of the volume of air in the lungs and the speed at which it is exhaled.

Why the science lesson?

Now we’re more aware of what is happening with each breath, how the breath is taken in and the reasoning behind a proper breathing. If we’re breathing just enough to suffice, then how would we know we can breathe better? Being able to develop a breath perception relies on noticing anything that affects your breathing as well as knowing the full capability of the body’s breathing process. When you inhale fully, not only does the pelvic floor move down to accommodate the mass of air you are taking in, but the spine lengthens upwards, the intercostal muscles allow the ribs to move out and upwards toward the chin. The lower ribs move outward from the sternum and the shoulder girdle broadens.

When you’re accompanied with the knowledge of the mechanics of proper breathing is, and you have practice at being aware of the quality of your breath at all times, you will notice when breath is affected by things such as stress, emotions, fatigue, etc.

How is breathing affected?

You emotions can affect your breath, and likewise, you breath can affect your emotions. As you become more aware of your breath, (and by this context, I simply mean to be aware that you are breathing) you can begin to experiment with controlling the breath. Often we find ourselves in stressful or fearful situations and the last thing we think about is how we are breathing. So, as you begin to constantly check in on your breath while off the mat, you will get better at simply remembering that you’re breathing and knowing you have the option to accommodate the breathing process. This is the first step. Sounds simple enough, right?

Stress restricts breath and restriction of the breath is a bad thing in numerous ways. If we don’t inhale deep enough, we don’t get enough oxygen to serve the body’s needs, and if we don’t exhale fully, the expulsion of stale air and carbon dioxide is not sufficient. Aside from stress, bad posture is another enemy of healthy breathing. Many of us are sitting at desks all day or commuting to or from work more than we would like, and these are times when our breath is greatly restricted. So as you begin to check in with your breath often, you may realize that you need to sit up straight or adjust your chair or simply release the tension in your neck and shoulders and try to breathe a little more freely and possibly deeper.

You may find that you need to adjust your attire as well. Many fashionable clothes we wear are horrible for proper breathing such as tight clothes, belts and neck ties to name a few. Even walking in high heels can affect breath by causing more tension in the lower back muscles to maintain balance and thus prevent a full inhale while walking.

While you’re investing so much effort on the mat in proper breathing, be sure to reap the benefits off the mat as well. Check in often with your breath. I utilize an app for my smartphone called Mindfulness Bell, which can be set to chime at intervals as a reminder to take a full 3-part breath. (anything more than once an hour will drive your co-workers insane.) Try taking a full breath before you respond to an uncomfortable question. It’s a long enough awkward pause, for someone to re-word what they just asked you and gives you time to respond appropriatley with an oxygen fueled response. Take mental note of your breath when you are around certain people. Your yoga instructor, your boss, your spouse, your children or even your pets may manifest different breathing patterns. Play, experiment, and discover your breath. It’s the least-considered, most-precious commodity we have.

-Scott Kilpatrick

Really, Our Emotions can affect our breath

It is vice versa :slight_smile: It is Pran Shakti Or Air which drives our emotions ! It is AIR which makes us sleep and wake up as well. Moer over Air is permanent , omnipresent and omniscient. Mind is functional due to Air which is automatically flowing through nostrils. When mind is handed over or surrendered to Air. Mother Air starts cleansing of Samskaras. Cleansing of physical , mental and spritual or astral impurities.
Sidhha Mahayoga enables every truth and happniess seeker to enjoy his/her real self just by observing your breath ( an automatic process ) .

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Thanks for the tip on the Mindfullness ap. I just downloaded it.


It is a very good description of the science of breath. This being a yoga forum, hope you won’t mind extending your description in yoga perspective and make sure that we don’t remain gullible to believing in “science” by rejecting other ideas. In the end we need a wholesome answer.

You have explained the physiology of breath. And that is perfect. Problem occurs when we equate breathing of air (for oxygen) with control of prana, the life force. Air is easily perceptible, prana is not.

A question we need to ask is that the process of breathing is fine but what is the driver of the process. Is it self-propelling? an intuitive function of breath-related organs? The fact that life begins with the first breath and ends with the last, the life force must be setting the breathing process in motion for its own sustenance. But air is no substitute for prana, and irregular, shallow breathing is no real help. Additionally, breathing and emotions are in tandem.

Yoga looks at breathing for many reasons:

  1. Regulating breathing gives us a handle on emotions
  2. Breathing is the only activity that can be controlled at will or left alone as automatic
  3. Breathing of air - full, unpolluted - helps pure the blood that rejuvenates the body
  4. In our effort to gain consciouness of subtle things, breath becomes the best candidate to develop consciousness of subtle thing like air
  5. Breathing can not only be brought under voluntary control, we can bring rhythm to it (for example, the thythm of the sea-waves!)
  6. The rhythm of breathing can then be alignd with the exchange of our inner prana with the life-force (this prana respiration is yoga’s specialized knowledge)
  7. Since life force drives breathing, once we learn the real pranayama, (regulation of our life force within) breathing of air becomes redundant and can be easily rested in kumbhaka.
  8. There is a whole yogik science of breath called “svara-nadi shastra” built around the health diagnostics based on various parameters of breath - rate, depth, moisture, heat, force of exhalation etc

Hope this helps in understanding breathing better, as it goes behind the apparent and explains a holistic model. It also asks us to re-examine our conditioned thinking. For example, how breathing exercise is not pranayama; it is only an initial vehicle for prana respiration, until we learn how to control prana directly.

Thank you for sharing. I offered the perspective as a primer for new students. I have studied pranayama and I agree that its a very deep subject.


The science of Yoga is not be confused with study like in empirical knowledge which someone can read from the books and start CONTROL over the mind.
Mind itself is un-submissive and uncertain in nature and does not want to surrender to Almighty Or Supreme-consciousness.
It is vital to take shelter in a GURU who has realized that unit ( individual) consciousness in UNION with supreme consciousness.
But to start with Lord Krishna advised “Purvaabhyas” ( preparatory study) that anybody can start at his own. As he/she develops interest and progresses on the path, Mother energy will guide the seeker and will eventually meet with Guru. It is two ways that UNION is possible.

  1. Gain CONTROL over the mind ( by the methods like HATH YOGA)
  2. Hand over the mind to mother energy ( aka GURU/GOD/Supreme Consciousness)

Former involves efforts with “I” consciousness. Later is self less automatic ( spontaneous) event that is taken care by “Shakti” ( mother energy) .
In the later seeker just becomes “observer” Or mere spectator.
Lord Krishna many a times promises Arjuna to be mere representative of action and not to take ownership of any. He assures Arjuna that he will take care of everything for as he has deep devotion and submission towards LORD.
Yoga science and practices when carried with devotion and unconditional faith in GURU or Shakti brings the results.
The story of “CHANGDEVA” in indian scriptures is a good illustration of an seeker who exercised the YOGA as empirical knowledge and could live 1400 yrs by control over Breath but did fail to realize ULTIMATE consciousness. Changdeva after surrender to SAINT DNYANESHWAR and his younger sister MUKTABAEE was believed liberated as ease.

At his feet !

Dear Jayant,

Having quoted others (undisputed authorities to some, unknown to many) what is your personal experience? That will be very valuable to the practitioners.

The majority of your life force comes from oxidization of oxygen.
Respiration is driven by co2 levels.
From what I understand. Pranayama is hyperventilation. Or. Hypoventilation.
Otherwise you are just huffing and puffing air like normal.
This is why pranayama is considered dangerouse, precautions such as eating properly and refraining from intoxicants is advised. For pranayama in this manner leads to alkalosis or acidosis. Both these are stress the body.
If you attaine alkalosis. Your kidneys will compensate. And you will have alkalosis and acidosis at same time. Decsrbonization is hyperventilation and leads to magnetization of the body. But beware hypoxia! You should never have it. Hypoxia is bad.

Thoughts? Opinions? Criticisms? ^^ please. ^^.

[QUOTE=Avatar186;77511]Thoughts? Opinions? Criticisms? ^^ please. ^^.[/QUOTE]

Theories are nice but “proof is in the pudding” the reality of sensible trial and error.

Actually this is all distilled from direct experiance and research.

I ask for opinions and thoughts because some people don’t consider this pranayama.
was trying to stir up conversation.

My previous post was all facts. :wink:
never breath through the mouth for this though. This is to only be done through the nose.

That information is distilled from almost 7 years trial and error. It is a fruit I’ve shared.
Yet most people don’t even know what hyperventilation is.

[QUOTE=Avatar186;77520]That information is distilled from almost 7 years trial and error. It is a fruit I’ve shared.
Yet most people don’t even know what hyperventilation is.[/QUOTE]

My experience is that it?s extremely difficult to find someone skillfully practiced and proved in the science/art of breath, occasionally throughout the years I?ve found someone who shares something useful but my recourse has been research (internet, books, and video) with judicious trial and error, can?t find a person of expert near my local.

The fact that western medical science already has the information was a blessing in disguise. The hard part was connecting terminology and experiance.

I asked for criticism. Mainly because I sensed most would have an aversion to this.
it is actually very easy to do once you get the rhythm down.
Consistant flow,and rhythm are key. Speed is a highly adjustable variable.
I have taken a break today. As I worked 28 hours and was awake 36 or so hours.
So I shall start practise again tomorrow. Respiratory alkalosis is indeed being allusive. Yet my practise was choppy the last few days. Lack of food made me slow down a bit.

Hyperventilation is when the body is decarbonized. This leads to the blood holding on to the oxygen tighter. The flesh being deprived of oxygen,causes the nervousness system to rapidly fire.
(Hypoxia is when the blood holds the oxygen so tightly that vital body organs are deprived,this should cause u do pass out, I have never had this hypoxia occurred,I suggest ceasing practise if any dizzyness or. Blacking out starts to occur"
anyway. When prolonged,the rapidly fire nervous system becomes magnetic.
I have done this breathing for a half hour without a single sign of hypoxia.
although it can cause slight involentary muscle tension. Kinda like when electricity hits the flesh,it causes it to tense up. In the same sense this happens to the body. I think chemically it is refered to a release of.calcium.

Now! Like I said. I am self taught. So this may or may not be what yogis talked about as pranayama. But it is decarbonization of the blood. Carbon dioxide being an oxide, a waste product created through the corruption and destruction of oxygen. Although medical science would have you believe that co2 is better to have in the blood than o2. If you believe that. HypO ventilate,instead of hypER ventilating. :slight_smile:

N that’s that. Again!

Decarbonization of the blood and magnetization is not understood nor taught.

How can you perform kriya yoga as described by Amanda if you miss this key point?

You can’t. Peoples teachings be wrong and obscured.

I can’t even spark interest on the topic. Lol.

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