As I mentioned in the first part of this article, in part II let's talk about breathing, because what is yoga without breathing techniques? And what is a yoga class without practising your breathing?
Pranayama is a beautiful practice about extending your energy and extending the life force. There are many different types of pranayama techniques, but what it all comes down too is the most important pranayama: Kumbhaka or "Breath Retention".
This is where we get the most benefits holistically, mentally, physically and in every way, eventually all the pranayama practices lean to this path of breath retention. There are severals benefits, the first one is obviously the mental benefits. When we hold our breath, it stimulates the nervous system which allow us to be calm, bring down our hearth rate, slow down our mind and it help us to be a more focused, more centered. There is a lot of other physicological effects that come from holding the breath, and it all has to do with CO2 retention. Do you follow me?
And here's why: When we hold our breath, the CO2 enter our cells and then this helps us to exchange oxygen in a better way. Focused breathing like this connects oxygen from the lungs to the hearth, and it make your lungs expand. Our lungs are elastic, so with this practise of breathing your lungs will get stronger and bigger.
So what if there is no CO2 present when our blood runs through the body and all its vital organs? What happens then? Well first of all we are waisting our time. This is called "The Bohr Effect". It's a great thing to look up if you want to do some more research - (here are some YouTube-videos) but again it's all about the CO2 exchange in your blood.
So by holding our breath, the CO2 we have in our bodies dissolve into the blood which turns into carbonic acid and tell our blood vessels and our bronchus to dialogue, and grow, so we have better blood circulation through the body as well as better oxygen exchange into the lungs and our lung capacity gets bigger. When we are practicing we can expand our lungs. How? The lungs are very elastic and so by breathing and holding we are creating more lung tissue and the lungs grow - they get bigger. Pretty cool, or what do you think?
The bigger the lungs are, the better. It's like having a battery. The bigger the battery, the more energy it can store. Think about this, oxygen fills our brain, our blood, our muscles ... everything in the body come from oxygen, so the more we are able to store, hold and control it - the better. When we practise this, and get better at storing oxygen, we produce more red blood cells. If you have more red blood cells, you have more oxygen to deliver. If we hold our breath, it tells your body to produce more red blood cell.
So here is my challenge to you: Next time during your WOD or workout routine, and you feel you have given it all and can barely breathe, do this: Take a momement - and hold your breath. Do it again, and repeat - two, three, four times before you continue your exercise. This will bring oxygen to your brain, slow down your pulse and hearthrate. Make sure you are not alone when doing this the first times! Abort mission if you get dizzy ...
In the mornings as soon as you wake up, you can do 3 minutes of hand stand against the wall, followed by 5 minutes of breath retention. Hold your breath as long as you can, then exhale and repeat ... do this a couple of times, and then you should be ready for a nice cup of tea or coffee, planning how to make this another great day ...