The Samahita Blog

What are Breathing Exercises

By Paul Dallaghan

Breathing exercises are the specific techniques of breathwork, done regularly in a routine, to train the respiratory apparatus and regulate the function of the respiratory center in the brainstem.

  1. Breathing exercises involve some or all of the following:
  2. Controlled inhalation and exhalation
  3. Nasal breathing with certain exceptions for specific purposes involving the tongue
  4. Longer exhalation to eventually double the length of inhalation
  5. Regulated pauses in between controlled inhalation and exhalation
  6. A pause that becomes a forced retention after either inhalation or exhalation
  7. Mild control of the vocal cord muscles at the glottis producing a soft sound
  8. Controlled lower abdominal muscle so the diaphragm descends deeper
  9. An increased volume per breath that increases lung expansion
  10. Reduced breaths per minute due to increased time for inhalation and exhalation
  11. An organized combination of these elements of a breath in a fixed ratio (Box 5)
  12. Repeated rounds of these fixed ratio breaths
  13. A dedicated space to sit and engage in this breathwork: mat, cushion, chair
  14. Dedicated time to reach a satisfactory and effective number of rounds
  15. Regularity of practice in terms of time and days in the week
  16. Consistency of a regular practice over time

As noted in What is Breathwork, the ratio of the inhalation and exhalation and the consistency of that length of breath with ratio across several repeated rounds of breathing is key in a breathing exercise routine. This allows the individual practitioner to select a length of breath appropriate to their capacity. The above points can be broken down between the technical aspects of a specific breathing exercise, meaning the nature of the inhalation, exhalation and any pauses, and the attitudinal aspect, meaning the dedication and regularity of practice. Both aspects are crucial. Technique without regularity or regularity of poor respiration do not qualify as breathing exercises and fail to achieve any purported benefits noted either in ancient texts or more recent scientific literature.

Paul Dallaghan’s expertise with breathwork, body and meditative practices comes from three sources: over 25 years of daily dedicated practice and teaching these techniques; immersion in the original culture through one-on-one direct training in practice and study of ancient texts; doctoral scientific research at a leading US university (Emory) on yoga and breath in terms of stress, health and aging. Paul occupies a unique space to impart genuine teaching and science on these practices, acknowledged by his teacher and lineage (Kuvalayananda) in India as a Teacher-of-teachers and a Master of Breath, identified to carry the tradition (Pranayama). This places him as the only master-level yoga and breath practitioner currently immersed in scientific academic research on breathwork, stress and health. His sincere and ongoing role is to teach, write and research to help put out experienced and authentic information on these areas in a world full of confusion and conflicting messages both off and online.

For more on his background see his bio.

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