The Mechanics of Breathing

3 Feb

yoga breathing

The action of breathing in and out is due to changes of pressure within the thorax, in comparison with the outside. This action is also known as external respiration. When we inhale the intercostal muscles (between the ribs) and diaphragm contract to expand the chest cavity. Air moves in and out of the lungs in response to differences in pressure. When the air pressure within the alveolar spaces falls below atmospheric pressure, air enters the lungs (inspiration), provided the larynx is open; when the air pressure within the alveoli exceeds atmospheric pressure, air is blown from the lungs (expiration).

  •  The respiratory system is divided into two parts: the upper respiratory tract (nose, sinuses and pharynx); and the lower respiratory track (larynx, trachea, bronchi, and lungs)
  • The breath enters the nose to the throat, then to the trachea, and then to the right and left bronchus, then bronchioles, then alveoli.
  • The air passages into the lungs look like the roots of the tree, diving into ever smaller passageways, and terminating in the alveoli, which are the site of gas exchange between the lungs and the blood. This exchange happens by means of a process called diffusion.
  • The diaphragm – which is a dome shaped muscle that separates the thoracic and abdominal cavities – is the prime mover of respiration. In contracts over 22,000 times a day.
  • During inhalation, the diaphragm contracts downward. The external inter-costal muscles contract, elevating the ribcage. The elevation of the rib cage and the downward movement of the diaphragm creates a negative density of air in the thoracic cavity, allowing air to be sucked into the lungs.
  • During exhalation, we see a relaxation of the muscles that are responsible for inhalation. The external inter-costals relax, and the ribcage relaxes from its elevated position. The diaphragm relaxes up, resulting in the expulsion of air from the lungs. Normal, unconscious exhalation is known as „passive recoil‟. During forced or active exhalation, the internal inter-costals draw down on the ribcage, and the abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles contract to compress the abdominal cavity, and depress the sternum and ribcage.

As a yoga practitioner or yoga instructor, you need to understand the mechanics of breathing. There are some short courses on Yoga breathing or Pranayama. If you want to enhance your knowledge on Yoga breathing or Pranayama, you can enroll for one of these courses. But do not forget to practice basic yoga poses including Savasana, Pigeon Pose, Triangle Pose, and Half Moon Poses.


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