SCIENCE OF PRANAYAMA YOGA
The science of pranayama yoga divides respiration into three phases.
- Puraka is inhalation
- Rechaka is exhalation
- Kumbhaka is breath retention
- Puraka and Rechaka are natural phases, so Kumbhaka is Pranayama.
Kumbhaka is then divided into the three further phases of,
- Bahir is retention at the end of a breath
- Antar is retaining the breath on an inhalation
- Kevala Kumbhaka is holding the breath with no particular emphasis, or spontaneous breath retention
- YAMA can be translated as “restraint” or “control”
- AYAMA means extension or stretching
The breath is symbolic of prana, and pranayama can be understood as methods to extend and expand vital life force energy through the deliberate control of respiration.
Pranayama can therefore mean extension of life force through restraint of the breath (kumbhaka).
Although carbon dioxide is seen as harmful or just a waste product, it is essential for good health and a necessary part of the respiratory system.
It is the build up of carbon dioxide that triggers the next breath, not the lack of oxygen, and the accumulation of carbon dioxide triggers a response called cerebral vasodilation.
Cerebral vasodilation is the widening of the blood vessels, due to the smooth muscle relaxing. The main function of vasodilation is to increase blood flow to a particular part of the body most in need. Another benefit of cerebral vasodilation is reduced blood pressure.
BREATH RETENTION & CEREBRAL ANOXIA
Holding the breath creates a response called cerebral anoxia, in which the capillaries, where gas exchange takes place do not all work at the same time. When the brain calls for more oxygen, the resting capillaries respond through cerebral vasodilation.
- Fast rapid and shallow breathing will express too much Co2, which results in hyperventilation. Left untreated there is evidence this will cause long lasting damage
- Hyperventilation causes hypercapnia a symptom of COPD
- Evidence suggests low CO2 levels trigger several changes in the lungs, including narrowing of the airways, also known as bronchoconstriction. These effects on the lungs are said to negatively impact health, especially those with asthma
- The brain requires Co2 for healthy functioning, and a lack of Co2 affects the nervous system putting the body on alert
- The Sympathetic nervous system is triggered, the heart and respiratory rate increase preparing the body for action.
SCIENCE OF PRANAYAMA YOGA-KUMBHAKA
The mind is fired by Prana, so more breaths means more activity in the mind (chitta). Controlling the breath and eventually suspending it means the mind becomes calmer paving the way for Pratyahara, Dharana and Dhyana
PRANA DHYANA-SPONTANEOUS RETENTION
- When comfortable with Samavritti and Samaveta, begin to allow a pause at the end of the exhalation.
- Allow the pause to evolve while gradually turning the awareness to the space between the breaths (Prana Dhyana)
- Prana Dhyana is the holding of the awareness on the space between the breaths.
- With practice the space between the breaths evolves naturally. Its important to allow the breath to become instinctive, so do not force either the breath or the retention.
- With Prana Dhyana the mind becomes still and quiet, allowing for spontaneous meditation (Dhyana)
Building C02 tolerance has many benefits including.
- During exercise not only do we breathe more oxygen, as a by-product more C02 is produced. Better CO2 tolerance improves our ability to cope with this temporary imbalance during exercise.
- low CO2 tolerance will lead to hyperventilating. As discussed previously the response to breathe is triggered by the levels of CO2 levels in the blood.
IMPROVE C02 TOLLERENCE
- Always breath through the nose
- Begin by slightly extending the exhale
- Try a count of 4 on the inhale and 6 on the exhale
- Begin to add a slight pause after the inhale
- For more guidance on try these exercises
- Be carful to never force your breath
TEST YOUR C02 TOLLERENCE
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C02 AND THE BRAIN
- The cerebellum is a part of the hindbrain and is responsible for coordinating voluntary movements. Other functions include motor skills such as balance, coordination, and posture. As yoga students it is useful to know low C02 levels may affect balance and posture through the connection between the cerebellum and the vestibular system.
RESPIRATORY SINUS ARRHYTHMIA
- During the inhalation, the heart rate increases, and on the exhalation the heart rate decreases
- This is called Respiratory sinus arrhythmia (RSA)
- During the inhalation blood is diverted to the lungs, and this causes less blood to be available to the rest of the body
- The heart reacts by increasing heart rate, in an effort to compensate.
SYMPATHETIC & PARASYMPATHETIC
- During the exhalation phase more blood is made available to the body, and the heart slows down
- There is evidence that the inhalation phase is connected to the sympathetic nervous system
- The exhalation is connected to the Parasympathetic nervous system
- As the parasympathetic nervous system triggers the rest and relax response, evidence suggests slowing down the exhalation has benefits
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