The Ins and Outs of Breathing: Part II


The Complete or Yogic Breath


In Part I of this article we discussed in detail three of the four forms of chest breathing. We will now take a look at the fourth kind: The Complete Breath or the Yogic breath.

The complete Breath is called Complete because it entails utilizing all 3 of the previous methods of chest breathing in two particular sequences:

  1. The Inhalation consists of beginning with lower chest breathing initiated by lowering the diaphragm. When this part of the breath is complete (as full as it can comfortably get), the next phase begins with middle chest breathing. This is initiated by expanding the rib cage as far as comfortably on all four sides. When this is complete, then upper chest breathing begins which is initiated by moving the upper chest and collar bones upwards and slightly forward.
  2. The exhalation proceeds in the exact opposite order. First, the collar bones drop pushing the air out of the upper part of the lungs. Then the rib cage relaxes, pushing the air out of the middle section of the lungs. Finally, the diaphragm relaxes, rising up and expelling the air out of the lower lungs.

This is the most complete, fullest method of exchanging gases between the lungs and our surroundings. Unless it has been practiced regularly, this method requires a lot of concentration to perform correctly. It does become easier with practice

Because of all of the sequential actions involved in this form of breathing, it is the slowest method of breathing.  The slowness of this breath does not short change our breathing.  Because of the great amount of air it actually gets into the lungs, it is actually the most efficient method of breathing.

Speaking of slow, even breathing, the ancients believe when we were born, we were allotted a certain fixed number of breaths to take during our lifetime. When we used this number of breaths up, we died. By breathing slower, deeper and longer, we can decrease the number of breaths we need each minute, each day and thus prolong our life. If this seems a little far fetched to you, just consider that a good rule of thumb in the animal kingdom is that generally speaking, the quicker the respiration of an animal, the shorter its lifespan is. An elephant lives longer than a mouse. A tortoise lives even longer than that.

Another ancient yogic text says that the further outwards your exhalation can be felt, the shorter your lifespan will be. Or conversely, the shorter the distance your exhalation can be felt from your nostrils to the skin of the back of your hand, the longer you will live. This is actually the same concept because in order for you to expel the same volume of air in each exhalation while using a shorter column of exhaled air, one’s exhalation must be propelled by less air pressure and thus it must take a longer amount of time to finish. If one is to breathe rhythmically, one’s inhalation must proportionally match one’s exhalation; and so, it must also be longer. Thus, this is just another way of saying that the slowly we breathe, the longer we will live.

The very act of breathing more slowly calms us down. If we are breathing slowly, the part of our brain that monitors such things, comes to the conclusion that all is well and keeps the body working in calm, slow, relaxed manner without a stress hormone is sight.

The ancients would attribute this calmness to the slowness of the breath. This is because as we inhale, our Prana or Qi rises up our body toward the top of our head. The more we inhale with greater pressure, the faster and higher it will rise up.

As our energy rises, it energizes our Heart Center and causes havoc with our emotions. It then proceeds to our throat center making it easier for us to speak things we wouldn’t have if we had taken the time to think about them some more. Lastly, our energy makes its way up to our brain and feeds whatever thoughts up there that the feelings from our heart center gave rise to. It short-circuits our intellect, by passes our reason and lets our emotions dictate our actions.

This is not to say that breathing more quickly makes a person lose control of him/herself. It just means that it makes it more difficult for your intellect and reason to remain in control of your actions; and, that you will have to be more vigilant in watching over what you feel, think, say and do.

I can not emphasis enough how important breathing is to all aspects of your life.

Learn this well and do it consistently!