The biology of breath
Yoga begins with a single breath. When we breathe shallow breaths into the chest we send a message to the body to become tense because it activates the sympathetic nervous system also know as the fight or flight response. Panting and sharp shallow breathing can promote anxiety because the body has supplied us with a serge of energy when there is no physical action to take.
On the contrary, lengthened breaths create expansion in the torso allowing us to reset our posture, release excess tension and enables us to fill the lungs with lots of fresh oxygen for the lungs and brain. When we have a nice long, lengthened posture we promote a free flow of energy up the spine which expands out to the rest of the body. Deep, slow breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system which sends a message to the brain to relax the body. Filling the torso with breaths creates expansion both physically and mentally giving us the sense that the constraints of tension are being removed.
We breathe through the nose in Yoga because:
- Hair follicles filter the breath
- Mucous membranes trap any junk and also filter the breath to purify the oxygen entering the lungs
- The nasal passage heats the breath making it easier for the lungs to receive
- Nasal breathing lengthens the breath which helps us to relax
- Our sense of smell senses danger/toxicity in the air that we’re breathin