How does it really work?
There are many techniques of breathing. The very fundamental, simple, natural technique is Deep Abdominal Breathing. Everyone must first learn this before trying other techniques of breathing. This is a natural breathing process. Observe an infant. You will find her doing abdominal breathing.
When you inhale, the belly must come out. You must then hold after inhalation. When you exhale, the belly must go in. And again, hold after exhalation. This is the process for deep abdominal breathing.
When you inhale, belly comes out. The diaphragm is forced down. Lower part of the lungs get to expand more. Lungs do not expand on their own, diaphragm helps them. This is a natural force exerted for the lungs to expand to a greater capacity.
Benefit at Physical Level:
By regular normal breathing you are using only about 15% of the lung capacity. When you do Deep Abdominal Breathing, you are using 60 to 70% of your lung capacity. It is already 4 to 5 times more. Even if you practice this breathing technique for 5 minutes and about 3 to 4 times a day, you will slowly increase the utilization of your lung capacity at other times too compared to where you started.
The consequence of using greater lung capacity is that you are drawing in 3 – 4 times more air and you are also throwing out more air. In the process, your blood is getting better oxygenated, more purified and detoxified of carbon dioxide and other toxins. So, 4 times more oxygenation and 4 times more detoxification. Overall result is already more than 10 times. Not 10% more; 10 times means 1000% more.
The purified, oxygenated blood will improve the function of all organs, including the heart, lungs, brain, nervous system, digestive system, immune system, etc. Improvement in digestion and assimilation implies that the blood will carry richer nutrients as well. Thus, health will improve. This is only one aspect of breathing.
Benefit at Energy Level:
There is another aspect of breathing, the energy aspect. We have invisible physical body called Energy Body or Bio-plasmic Body which gets energized during the practice of breathing. When you connect the tongue to the palate and breathe, you complete the circuit of front and rear meridians. Like, when a switch is on, the bulb gets switched on. Similarly, when you connect tongue to the upper palate and inhale, you draw more energy. When you hold, you absorb the energy. When you exhale, you throw the used-up energy. When you hold again, as already a vacuum is created by exhalation, you will automatically draw the energy through the energy centers and pores. So, you get more energized. Thus, the process of Rhythmic Yogic Breathing involves connecting tongue to the upper palate while breathing.
Benefit at Emotional and Mental Level:
There is an emotional aspect of breathing. You experience emotions or feelings! When you do Rhythmic Yogic Breathing, the movement of diaphragm is rhythmically going up and down. This causes the energy center near the diaphragm, known as the solar plexus center, to normalize. This center gets affected with any of the not so wholesome emotions, like, anger, jealous, hatred, etc. When this center normalizes, you will slowly feel better.
Our thinking and feeling are connected. You cannot be experiencing anger and think positively. And you cannot be thinking negatively and be calm emotionally. Both are related. Therefore, when emotions get normalized, your thinking faculty is freed from lower emotions. Hence the saying, “you regulate your breathing, you regulate your mind”.
Our involuntary nervous system, the activity of the pituitary gland and all the hormonal secretions are affected by the emotions. The adrenal glands when activated by stress, hijack the thinking faculty. Also, blood supply to the visceral organs is affected. The greater supply of the blood goes to the arms and legs to prepare for flight or fight reflex action response. Besides, the stress hormones shut the immune system temporarily. By this regulated breathing practice, you can calm down and de-stress. Your thinking faculty is freed from the turmoil of emotions. Your involuntary nervous system gets regulated, immune system springs back up and hormonal secretion becomes normal.
This can further be understood by seeing our HRV (Heart Rate Variability – a variation in the time interval between consecutive heartbeats in milliseconds). It has been observed that when we are angry, frustrated or stressed, our heart rate when plotted on a graph is disordered and incoherent. However, it has been studied that by the practice of Deep Abdominal Breathing for a few minutes, the same graph when plotted became ordered and coherent. HRV values become better with this breathing practice. Research shows that, greater the HRV value, the better it is for the heart health. With practice, the heart pumping rate and pressure gets regulated and reduced. Plus, this increased order and coherence in HRV in turn results in more efficient brain function. Therefore, we can use discretion in taking action instead of getting carried away with our emotions.
Bhagwan Sri Ramana Maharishi in the Upadesa Saram, says, you regulate your mind by regulating your breathing. Like a bird caught in a nest, the mind also is regulated, controlled and unwavered by the breathing practice.
Benefit at Spiritual Level:
Coming to next higher level, rhythm tunes you up; tunes your consciousness from lower to higher. Already you have moved from lower emotions to higher and mind is regulated too; Now you are tuning up to higher consciousness. You can automatically tap into higher energies.
With rhythm there is a greater flow of energy into the system. Rhythm has power. The Soldiers are asked not to walk in rhythm on a bridge. This is to avoid possibility of their marching frequency to match the natural frequency of the bridge, or else the bridge might collapse. That is the power of rhythm! With this increased power or energy, you can handle your day-to-day activities more efficiently and patiently without loosing cool over petty things.
You can do it in rhythm by using a metronome. You can download YPV SADHANA APP and do Rhythmic Yogic Breathing with counts. The audio track guides you to do it for about 5 minutes. You can do this practice 3 times daily. If there is some infection or sickness, you can do this breathing exercise 6 times a day.
You can use 6-3, 6-3 rhythm. That is, inhale for 6 counts; hold for 3 counts; exhale for 6 counts; hold again for 3 counts. You can use rhythms other than 6-3, 6-3 too. You may choose a rhythm of 8-4, 8-4 or 7-1, 7-1. Instead of metronome you can even use your pulse for counting. While using pulse count, automatically rate of breathing reduces, becomes smoother and you experience calmness.
Rhythmic Yogic Breathing will help you recover better from your ailments. It will sustain, improve and upgrade your immune system. Nothing can replace Rhythmic Yogic Breathing!
I would like to quote 2 statements from the book on Hatha Yoga, by Yogi Ramacharaka:
“The percentage of civilized men who breathe correctly is quite small, and the result is shown in contracted chests and stooping shoulders, and the terrible increase in diseases of the respiratory organs, including that dread monster, Consumption (tuberculosis).”
“Eminent Authorities have stated that One Generation of Correct Breathers would Regenerate the Race, and Disease would be so Rare as to be looked upon as Curiosity.”
Regular practice is required to reap the benefits. Combined with this, there are other techniques as well. We will discuss about them in the next sessions.