The WHYs of Yoga: The Breath of Life

Some times we need a ‘kick’. Think of WHYs of Yoga to motivate you to yoga class or to practice yoga and meditation at home.

This is a series of blog posts with one of the many WHYs that yoga is so beneficial for your mind and body. Allow this WHY, The Breath of Life, to be your motivational ‘kick’.

Yoga Increases your Lung Capacity – WHY does that matter?

Our lung capacity naturally declines with age, starting at age 30. By the age of 50, our lung capacity may be reduced by as much as 50 percent. This means that the older you get, the harder it is for your lungs to breathe in and hold air.

When we breathe in less oxygen, our body and cells also receive less oxygen, forcing our heart to work harder to pump oxygen throughout the body. The heart working overtime long-term can lead to heart failure.

Earlier symptoms of reduced lung capacity include shortness of breath, decreased stamina and reduced endurance and frequent respiratory infections. YIKES!

How do we counter the natural decrease of lung capacity? A great way is…you guessed it: Yoga

A study published in the journal Chest which involved patients with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) concluded that those who were taught yoga exercises including asanas (poses), pranayama (control of the breath), meditation and relaxation techniques resulted in similar improvement as those who did typical pulmonary rehabilitation. They concluded that yoga is a cost-effective form of rehabilitation and can be adopted as an integral part of long-term management of COPD.

The American Lung Association (ALA) says yoga is a safe exercise option for patients who have difficulty breathing with lung diseases such as asthma, COPD or lung cancer.  The ALA says even simple breathing exercises, performed daily, can have a significant impact on people with lung disease – not to mention the mental benefits of yoga and mindful meditation, as lung diseases are often accompanied by anxiety, depression and stress.

You don’t have lung disease?

Count your blessings and continue to practice yoga to maintain and improve your lung health.

Research in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, examined the effect of the yogic breathing technique, Bhastrika Pranayama on lung function capacity in athletes. Bhastrika Pranayama or “bellows breath” is a practice where the inhalation and exhalation move forcefully through the nose.

Researchers assessed 30 healthy individuals, placed into 2 groups. The yoga group practiced the Bhastrika Pranayama for 15 minutes and the control group went running for 15 minutes, 6 days a week for 1 month. Researchers found there was a significant change in the lung efficiency and capacity of the yoga group. They had more maximum ventilation volume, more forced vital capacity, more forced expiratory volume, and higher levels of peak expiration flow.

This research suggested that incorporating yoga in sports training could enhance the efficiency and performance of an athlete by enhancing lung function capacity.

Many people associate keeping fit with maintaining a healthy heart, but physical activity, including yoga, also helps keep lungs healthy. A heathy heart AND healthy lungs are needed to bring oxygen into the body, to provide energy and remove carbon dioxide, the waste product created when you produce energy.

Yoga Pranayama: The Breath of Life