Yoga Poses and Their Benefits IV: The Respiratory System

Yoga Poses and Their Benefits IV: The Respiratory System
21 May, 2014

Yoga poses that are beneficial to the Respiratory System

What is the one type of nourishment that you can’t be without for more than a few minutes? Air. Every day we breathe around 20,000 times. Respiration is essential for life. Oxygen is essential for every cell in our bodies – cells use oxygen to produce energy. In the process of producing energy carbon dioxide is formed as a waste product. It is throughout the respiratory system that oxygen is brought int the body and carbon dioxide expelled out of the body. The respiratory system consists of the nose, the nasal cavities, sinuses, pharynx (connects the nose and mouth to the larynx), larynx (voice box), trachea (windpipe), and the lungs – including the bronchi (air passages), alveoli (air sacs), and the pleura (lung sacs). There are three parts to the respiration process: Ventilation (inhalation and exhalation), delivery (exchange and transport of gasses between lungs, bloodstream and cells) and utilization (the use of oxygen in the cells to produce energy). This process nourishes and purifies the blood, and thereby the entire body!

There are many different factors that can reduce the efficiency of the respiratory system. When the respiratory system is weak, the rest of our systems will be impaired too. Breathing can be inhibited due to weak or tight muscles surrounding the breathing organs. It can also be inhibited by poor lung capacity, infectious or inflammatory conditions, and allergic reactions. The common denominator of these conditions is that they all lead to an obstruction of airflow, either into or out of the lungs.

In all acute conditions of the respiratory system it is important to be under the guidance of medical professionals. But in addition to certain life-style adjustments and medical care, a yoga program developed by a Yoga Therapist can help to strengthen our system and relieve the stress that often accompany poor health.  

Health conditions aside, everybody will benefit from the development of their breathing capacity! It is tremendously vital to keep the lungs in good shape to make the respiratory system function optimally.  The several breathing exercises which make use of inhaling and exhaling are a great help in developing optimal lung capacity. The majority of the breathing muscles are the same muscles that stabilize or inhibit our posture. A Yoga practice for the respiratory system should include Asanas (postures) that evenly strengthen and lengthen all the areas around the thoracic and abdominal cavities, as well as breathing exercises that increase the capacity for both inhalation and exhalation. Below are a few example of asanas and pranayama (breathing exercises) that are beneficial for the respiratory system. 

  • Abdominal breathing
  • Nadi shodana (alternate nostril breahting)
  • Sama Vrtti (equal inhale and exhale)
  • Ujjayi (Throat Breathing)
  • Standing poses – increase stamina.
  • Bending poses – focusing on bending evenly throughout the torso and in all directions.
  • Prone and supine poses – e.g. bhujangasana (cobra pose), salabhasana (locust pose), dhanurasana (bow pose), straight leg raises and twists. These poses help to strengthen the areas around the torso.
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